Missouri Voters Approve Rejection of Health Reform Mandate

August 5, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - With a vote of 71% for, Missouri citizens have approved a state law that says Missouri can't force people to pay a penalty or fine if they fail to carry health-insurance coverage.

The Wall Street Journal reports that opponents of the Obama administration’s health care reform said Missouri voters’ rejection of this controversial component of it could re-energize the push in other states to challenge the measure. However, supporters of the federal law pointed out that the Missouri outcome came in an election with low turnout and Republican voters significantly outnumbering Democrats.  

According to the news report, the Missouri vote is largely symbolic. If federal courts uphold the health care law, it would take precedence over any state law that contradicts it, but if federal courts throw out the mandate, there would be no need for states to challenge it. With Missouri’s move, six states now have laws on the books opposing the federal law, including Idaho, Utah, Virginia, Georgia, and Louisiana.  

Missouri’s election was the first in which voters had the opportunity to decide directly whether they oppose the federal law’s mandate. Arizona and Oklahoma have similar referendums on the November ballot (see Arizona, Nevada Governors Bypass AGs to Join Healthcare Suit), and Colorado may have one as well. The Journal said a Florida proposal was pulled off the November ballot last week by a state judge but that action is expected to be challenged.  

This week, a federal judge let Virginia’s challenge to the federal law move forward (see Judge Moves Forward Virginia Lawsuit over Health Care Reform).  

The health reform law also faces a lawsuit by 20 states and a small business trade group (see Business Group Joins HCR Challenge). The challenge questions the federal law’s constitutionality (see “Constitutional” Conventions).