To Cover Or Not To Cover: Health Care Ballot Initiatives

Rising health care costs and the credit crunch are forcing employers to drop health insurance coverage or shift health expenses onto American families. Nearly half of employers plan to “change employee premium requirements,” and 59 percent “plan to raise deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket spending limits next year.” Yet the current economic downturn is already compelling Americans to forgo doctor visits, cut back on preventive care, and even skip cancer treatments.

Families can’t afford higher health care costs; they’re already struggling to cope with their existing medical debts. Costly illnesses trigger about half of all personal bankruptcies, and most of those who file for bankruptcy because of medical problems have health insurance. Medical crises also contribute to “half of all home foreclosure filings” and “may put as many as 1.5 million Americans in jeopardy of losing their homes each year.”

It is within this context that Americans across the country will go to the polls tomorrow to vote on a wide array of health care related ballot initiatives. Some efforts seek to expand access to health care coverage and spread the risk and cost of insurance, others seek to limit it. Below is a sampling:

StateInitiativeDescriptionArizonaFreedom to Choose Act (Proposition 101)The measure blocks the state from enacting a universal health-insurance plan. If it passes, it would amend the state’s constitution to say that no law “shall impose any penalty or fine, of any type, for choosing to obtain or decline health care coverage or for participation in any particular health care system or plan.” Sen. John Kyl and Rep. Jon Shadegg recently endorsed Proposition 101. WyomingHealth Care Referendums This non-binding referendum appears on the ballot in 22 communities and calls on the next state Legislature to guarantee affordable, quality health care for every person in the state by the end of 2009.MaineAn Act To Continue Maine ‘s Leadership in Covering the UninsuredAn organization called Fed Up With Taxes is seeking to repeal taxes on malt liquor, wine, and soft drinks, the revenue from which funds the state-subsidized Dirigo health insurance program.MontanaHealthy Montana Kids Plan ActThe act provides comprehensive health coverage to the 30,000 uninsured Montana children who live in families that make up to about $50,000 per year and establishes a children’s health insurance coverage plan for all uninsured children by December 1, 2009. The uninsured rate for Montana kids in poverty has increased from 19% to 29% in the last five years, while nationally the number has dropped from 22% to 20%.MissouriHome Care (2008–25)The initiative establishes the Missouri Quality Homecare Council to ensure the availability of quality home care services under the Medicaid program by recruiting, training, and stabilizing the home care workforce.MichiganCureMichigan (Proposal 2)The amendment would allow the donation of embryos produced in fertility clinics that would otherwise be discarded and would allow researchers to create embryonic stem cell cultures to study disease. It would allow government funding of stem-cell research. Human cloning would continue to be illegal.