Ohio puts challenge to health care reform on the ballot

Ohio residents will be allowed to vote for a measure that would create an amendment to the state constitution blocking federal health care reform in the state. The measure will be on the November 8 ballot after a successful petition drive by state residents who oppose health care reform. The proposed amendment would constitutionally prohibit the state from complying with the requirements of federal health care reform passed earlier this year.

Under Ohio’s election rules residents can put measures up for public referendum if they gather enough valid signatures and submit them along with the item to be voted on to the secretary of state ahead of an election. Petitioners must get nearly 400,000 valid signatures for an issue to be included on the ballot. In this case, petitioners submitted almost 600,000 signatures and enough of them were validated to clear the threshold. The full language of the proposed amendment has yet to be drafted.

Election observers expect that the measure will increase voter turnout in this off-year election because it will be placed on the ballot next to another petition to repeal a law that effectively stripped collective bargaining rights from public workers. Both issues have polarized the state and are likely to result in increased turnout from more hardline liberal and conservative voters.

Most of the support for the health care amendment comes from a coalition of Tea Party voters which have amassed a group of volunteers throughout the state. These same voters tend to support the end of collective bargaining and are expected to vote in favor of keeping that law as well.

Although language is still being finalized, exemptions have already been included to allow Ohioans to continue to participate in programs such as Medicare and Medicaid with the focus of the amendment being on new health insurance rules outlined in the federal health care reform package.

Ohio is already working to establish a health insurance exchange in-state, one of the requirements of health care reform, despite the Governor’s opposition to the law. The Governor has indicated that he has no plans to halt work on the exchange in light of the ballot initiative.

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