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Sponsors say medical choice proposition likely to fail

With ballots still to be counted, Prop. 101 backers concede loss



PHOENIX – A group sponsoring a ballot proposition that would prevent laws restricting medical choice in Arizona considers the measure headed for defeat, a spokesman said Thursday.

As of Thursday afternoon, Proposition 101 was losing with 987,857 votes against and 977,112 in favor. Maricopa County had yet to count tens of thousands of provisional ballots, but leaders of Medical Choice for Arizona expect it to lose, said Tom Evans, a spokesman for the group.

“When you have the governor and some big health care companies coming into a highly funded ‘no’ campaign, it was something we couldn’t overcome,” Evans said.

Proposition 101, put forward by two Phoenix surgeons, Dr. Eric Novack and Dr. Jeffrey Singer, took aim at universal health care.

It would have forbidden any law restricting a person’s ability to choose and pay directly for medical care. It also would have prevented tax penalties against those who can afford health insurance but choose to go without it.

Opponents said the proposition’s vague wording would invite legal challenges that could jeopardize funding for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid system.

Medical Choice for Arizona raised around $560,000 by mid-October, while the opposition group Stop 101 raised around $600,000, almost all of it from the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, according to records filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

Spokeswoman Jody Kent said leaders of Stop 101 are relieved to see the proposition headed for defeat.

“This is a good thing for Arizona taxpayers and Arizona families,” she said.

While saying he wasn’t taking sides, the head of AHCCCS had said a court ruling based on Proposition 101 could force the agency to switch from a managed-care model to fee-for-service model. Anthony Rodgers said that could cost the state $1 billion a year or more in federal funding.

Gov. Janet Napolitano said the proposition was “fraught with unintended consequences” and also could affect private health care plans that used managed care.

Proponents of 101 disputed those claims, saying AHCCCS wouldn’t be affected because it is a voluntary program.

Todd Sanders, vice president of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, said the key problem was the proposition’s vague wording.

“No one could understand it because of the way it was written,” Sanders said. “It led to the issue of it being too ambiguous.”

Craig Allen, an associate professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the wording doomed the measure even though polls showed it with solid support.

“The writing was a factor because, owing the relatively low profile of the proposition, people had to figure it out in the voting booth,” Allen said. “Many may not have known for what they were voting.”


Key facts about Proposition 101

• Provisions: Prohibit laws that restrict a person’s choice of private health care systems or private plans, interfere with a person or an entity’s right to pay for lawful medical services or impose a penalty or fine for choosing to obtain or decline health care coverage or for participation in any health care system or plan.

• Arguments For: Preserves health care choice and guards against a state-run universal health care plan such as the one to which Massachusetts is transitioning.

• Arguments Against: Ambiguous wording invites lawsuits and could lead to a court ruling that costs hundreds of millions of dollars to Arizona’s system for providing health care to the poor.

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