Anti-Health Law Measure Moves Toward Ballot in Ohio

By: - July 8, 2011 12:00 am

ON THE BALLOT: Opponents of the federal health care law in Ohio say they have enough signatures to place a measure on the 2012 ballot that would amend the state constitution to ban any requirement that people buy health insurance, as called for in the law. Supporters filed more than 546,000 signatures with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Wednesday (July 6). Arizona and Oklahoma voters already have approved similar measures, and  Alabama , Florida and Wyoming plan to put a similar amendment on the ballot next year. North Dakota , Tennessee , Kansas and Indiana all have statutes barring enforcement of the federal law’s so-called individual mandate, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council.

INSURANCE RATES: On the eve of the national health law’s passage last year, President Obama highlighted the need for a new health care system by pointing to a proposed increase in premiums of nearly 40 percent in California . State officials ultimately negotiated with the carrier to reduce the rate, but the insurance commissioner lacked the authority to reject the increase outright. A bill giving state officials that authority was approved this week by the state Senate’s health committee, although sponsors are bracing for floor amendments supported by the health insurance industry, doctors and hospitals that would limit the bill’s effectiveness. California — which represents 15 percent of the national market for employer-provided health insurance and 11 percent of the market for individual policies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, is one of 28 states that lack authority to reject premium rate increases on the grounds that they are excessive. The federal government is pushing all states to crack down on high premiums in preparation for 2014, when the national health law will require nearly all Americans to have health insurance.

NEGOTIATIONS: Administration officials are offering to cut tens of billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid in negotiations to reduce the federal deficit, the New York Times reports . The proposed cut in the federal government’s share of Medicaid spending for low-income people would come from reformulating the state and federal fiscal payments for Medicaid into what administration officials are calling a “blended rate.” Currently, the federal government reimburses states at different rates for the two programs. Experts say the proposal, which would shift costs from the federal government to states, would lower funding for some states more than others.

APPEALS COURTS: A federal judge in Cincinnati last week upheld the national health law’s controversial requirement that nearly everyone sign up for health insurance. The decision in favor of the federal government marks the first appellate review of the 2010 health care law, leaving two more appeals court opinions to go. Following oral arguments in May and June, decisions are expected soon from the Fourth Circuit Court in Richmond, Virginia, and the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta.

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.