Masquerading as a protector for access to private medical options, the initiative actually would hinder true reform
About the way health care is delivered in Arizona and the rest of the United States, one thing is certain: The system is broken.
More than 1.2 million Arizonans,
nearly 20 percent,
lack health insurance. Since 1999, the cost of premiums in the U.S. has risen four times faster than inflation.
Fewer businesses with fewer than 10 employees offered health insurance in 2007 than in 2000.
Against this backdrop comes Proposition 101, which would amend Arizona’s Constitution to prohibit laws that restrict a person’s freedom to choose private care, or to decline to be covered by any particular health system or plan.
The proposition is a bubbling petri dish of unforeseen consequences that will not improve our health care system and will hinder true reform. It should be rejected.
The broad sweep of the proposition leads many health care experts to believe it will result in endless litigation as attorneys haggle over its interpretation. Even Dr. Eric Novack,
one of two Phoenix surgeons pushing the plan, acknowledges that the right combination of attorneys and plaintiffs could result in lawsuits.
The head of Arizona’s state Medicaid program says the proposal, if challenged in the courts, could force the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System
to switch to a fee-for-service model that would cost consumers $1 billion.
Professor Gene Schneller
of Arizona State University concludes,
“Lawyers will be the major beneficiaries.”
Prop. 101 supporters like to frame it in First Amendment terms, as if the proposal were enshrining a right akin to speaking or worshipping freely.
But it does not make access to health care a right or even guarantee the right to the doctor of one’s choice.
HMOs still would be able to change at will their lists of “in-network” physicians and hospitals.
Prop. 101′s provision giving Arizonans the right to opt out of a health plan is at odds with the benefits society would obtain from mandating that all Arizonans have health insurance. The analogy to car insurance, which is mandatory in Arizona, is apt.
Mandatory car insurance benefits all Arizonans. It puts insurers, not the state, on the hook for expenses. So it should be with health insurance. When the uninsured get sick, we all pay.
Supporters of Prop. 101 argue that mandatory insurance does not work because 25 percent to 40 percent
of motorists remain uninsured. But that doesn’t mean the law’s purpose is flawed, only that enforcement must be improved.
Businesses fear the proposition. Almost all chambers of commerce in the state oppose it, because they worry it would give any employee the right to reject the company health plan and demand an alternative – the tyranny of the minority.
Legislators, both moderate and conservative, have come out against the proposition because health care coverage is a legislative, not a constitutional, issue. They realize the proposal would handcuff their ability to make real fixes to the system.
Massachusetts and other states are experimenting with universal health coverage plans. Some may fail, but others may succeed. Under the constrictions of Prop. 101, Arizona would not be able to partake of the best practices of other states. We’d be stuck with the dysfunctional status quo.
“Choice” is the mantra of Prop. 101′s supporters. But Arizonans already have choice; what they need is real health care reform, which the initiative would impede. Prop. 101 may be what some special interests and lawyers want, but it is not what the doctor ordered.
The Tucson Citizen urges voters to reject Proposition 101.