Health Freedom Returns to Arizona

Last November, Arizona’s Proposition 101 was narrowly defeated at the ballot box. Prop 101 would have prevented the government from enrolling people in a government or private health plan against their choice, or otherwise preventing them from spending their own money on their own health care.

But good ideas never die: the principle behind Prop 101 is now championed by State Rep. Nancy Barto, who invited me to testify to the Arizona House of Representatives Health & Human Services Committee yesterday on HCR 2014, which contains substantively the same language as Prop 101.

Like Prop 101, HCR 2014 is a proposed constitutional amendment. However, Prop 101 required an expensive drive for citizens’ signatures to get on the ballot. If HCR 2014 passes the legislature, it will go on the ballot without the need for signatures (likely in November 2010), and the campaign will have more money to educate the public.

So, although Prop 101 failed at the ballot box last November, it obviously had enough of an impact to convince the majority in the legislature that it was worth championing. Indeed, after the hearing (in which the comittee passed the bill in a 6-3 vote), we had a press conference in which the Speaker of the House, Kirk Adams, announced his commitment to pass the resolution through the whole House.

The new resolution has more precise language than Prop 101, and the likelihood of the federal government monopolizing access to health care is much greater now than last November. These might be enough to influence the majority of voting Arizonans to protect their health services from government take-over when they see the amendment on the ballot.

As well, I’m obliged to compliment Rep. Barto on her command of the issues. Many health-policy analysts have seen Republican politicians flounder when challenged on issues of the uninsured, international comparisons of health outcomes, and the “fairness” of allowing individuals to navigate their own choices in health care. Rep. Barto was well prepared, citing reports by analysts such as Mike Tanner of the Cato Institute, and alluding to research by the NCPA’s John Goodman, and other health-policy scholars.

On key issue that came up was the fate of a successful state constitutional amendment protecting health freedom, if the federal government were to take over health care. Some witnesses suggested that the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause would invalidate the relevent clause in Arizona’s state constitution.

Well, I’d prefer that the U.S. Constition’s 10th amendment win that fight, but I’m not going to predict the outcome of a state’s judicial challenge to an (as yet undefined) federal “universal” health plan. For those interested in preparing for such a fight, I’d recommend Levy & Mellor’s The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government nd Eroded Freedom, especially chapter 1.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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