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Issue 3 gives Ohioans choice on federal healthcare mandate

By Sarah Sidlow
On November 3, 2011

In response to President Barack Obama's 2010 National Healthcare Mandate Law, Ohioans will see Issue 3 on the ballot next week. Approval of Issue 3, also known as the Ohio Healthcare Freedom Amendment, would enact an amendment to the state constitution that would allow Ohio citizens the freedom to chose their own healthcare providers.

Opponents to the proposed amendment have cautioned voters to consider some of the unintended effects that could be caused due to the over-simplified language of the amendment.

Brian Rosenberg, executive director of Progress Ohio pointed to "Bad Medicine," a study conducted at Case Western Reserve University that highlights the unintended consequences of the amendment.

"The language says no one shall be compelled to have health insurance beyond March 2010," Rosenberg said. "But this causes a lot of problems. For instance: if a couple is getting divorced, and one parent has to pay health insurance, that's compelling health insurance."

Rosenberg also mentioned things like changes to worker's compensation, universities that require health insurance and school immunizations, all of which could be considered mandated health insurance policies.

"By simplifying the language, they've created a legal nightmare, which would be in Ohio's constitution if it does pass," Rosenberg said. "What we will be left with will be something that is good for a lot of lawyers but not good for public health."

According to Rosenberg, the problem has struck a chord with many.

"Every major editorial board in the state, including conservative ones like the [Columbus] Dispatch and the [Cincinnati] Enquirer have all urged a no vote on Issue 3. Even if they disliked the Federal Health Care Act, they realized this has nothing to do with the FHC, but what will be left will be a legal nightmare," Rosenberg said.

The Ohio Democratic Party has also endorsed a no vote for the issue, according to Seth Bringman, communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party.

The Ohio Republican Party has endorsed this issue. They are working closely with Ohioans for Healthcare Freedom, which has taken the lead on the campaign.

"We believe that the amendment is clear and simple," said Meghan Snyder, communications director for Ohioans for Healthcare Freedom. "We believe Ohioans deserve the freedom to make their own healthcare decisions."

Snyder said the group wanted to ensure that Ohio did not become a state like Massachusetts with a single-payer healthcare system, and that the clear and simple amendment was designed to allow for more healthcare choices, rather than allowing the government to get involved.

Snyder also said the consequences outlined in "Bad Medicine" were not a realistic concern.

"The ‘Bad Medicine' accusations are merely just scare tactics and hypothetical situations designed to make people believe that there will be mass hysteria in the streets if [Issue 3] passes," she said.

She also pointed to the state of Arizona, which has already passed a similar state amendment had encountered none of the unintended effects outlined in Bad Medicine.

Miami University junior Mike Treneff is hesitant about the complexity surrounding the issue.

"I like the idea of individual freedom to make health care choices, but I would still vote no on Issue 3. The oversimplified language would make me feel like I were voting to invite problems that we haven't identified yet," Treneff said.

Ultimately, it is the Supreme Court that will have the final say.

"The Supreme Court will make the decision whether the health care act will hold up. Even the Ohio attorney general has indicated that the Supreme Court decision will be binding," Rosenberg said.

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