WHAT OTHERS SAY: It's fitting that wording on health care exchange issue misses mark

Saturday, July 7, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Republicans are accusing Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan of making a mockery this week of a proposed ballot initiative seeking to stop the governor from doing something he never could have done: implementing a state health insurance exchange as called for in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

They have a point.

Ms. Carnahan's wording on the November initiative, placed on the ballot by the Missouri legislature, doesn't exactly tip-toe along the line of political fairness. It crosses the line and leaves it in its rear-view mirror by asking voters if they want to "deny individuals, families, and small businesses the ability to access affordable health care plans through a state-based health benefit exchange...."

If one believes that the state insurance exchanges called for in the Affordable Care Act will offer "affordable" health care plans, as the federal law intends, then Ms. Carnahan's proposed ballot language is accurate.

Otherwise, the language seems a bit of a partisan poke in the chest to the Republicans in the legislature who put the issue on the ballot.

So what?

Missourians are being asked to vote on this issue because of the partisan hackery of Republicans who want to take another bite of the "Obamacare" apple, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled is constitutional.

Now Ms. Carnahan, a Democrat, has done what her party has failed to do since the federal law passed. In effect, she explains the issue in stark terms to voters: Republicans are trying to take away your access to health care. Period.

That law gives states a simple choice. They either can devise their own state health care exchanges, basically web portals through which consumers can compare insurance plans and choose the best one for them, or they can let the federal government do it.

In 2011, the Missouri House of Representatives voted unanimously to set up a state health insurance exchange. Nothing but a partisan desire to be against everything "Obamacare," no matter the cost to consumers, could have stood in the way of the state protecting its domain from the feds.

Enter Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield. She and a few of her colleagues blocked the Senate's consideration of that bill. Instead, this year, Republicans decided to accuse Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, of trying to go around their backs to set up the exchange by executive fiat. He wasn't. He couldn't.

But that didn't stop them from passing a useless, meaningless ballot initiative.

So why shouldn't Ms. Carnahan mock it?

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and several legislative Republicans, all of whom are running for election this summer and/or fall, plan to sue Ms. Carnahan over her language. If they do and the lawsuit makes it to court, the judge should ask why they didn't write the ballot wording themselves. That's what they should have done. Of course, when Republicans last did that for an equally partisan initiative to suppress Democratic voter turnout, a judge tossed the ballot issue because lawmakers did what they now accuse Ms. Carnahan of doing.

The difference is this: While Ms. Carnahan's wording on the health care exchange ballot initiative appears to be politically motivated, it's not inaccurate. Missourians will lose the ability to choose from a state-designed health insurance exchange unless lawmakers act.

What are they waiting for?

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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Jeremy Engdahl-Johnson July 8, 2012 | 12:25 p.m.

Which states will get on the exchange bandwagon in wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on PPACA?

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