Former GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes and Republican U.S. Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona endorsed a proposal on Tuesday that will appear on the November ballot and ask voters whether they want state-guaranteed protections for health care.
Forbes and Shadegg said deep flaws in the health care overhaul now being considered by Congress underscore the need for the proposed amendment to the Arizona constitution. The proposal would prohibit requirements that a person or employer participate in a health care system and would ban penalties against patients or businesses for paying for health services on their own.
"Allowing individuals to make their own choice is the essence of freedom," Forbes said. "You don't have to buy something if you don't wish to buy it. You should have those choices. This amendment would make that possible."
Republicans in more than a dozen states who oppose President Barack Obama's push for health care overhaul have sought state-driven efforts to block federal intervention in health care.
Supporters say they weren't trying to cure all weaknesses in the health care system and instead were trying to keep it from getting worse. Opponents say the state measure amounts to a defense of a failed health care system.
The idea of state-guaranteed protections for health care has gained the most traction in Arizona. Although a similar proposal was defeated by state voters in 2008 by less than a half percent, the Legislature put the latest version on the Nov. 2 ballot for voters to decide.
Shadegg, who voted against the U.S. House's health care overhaul in November, said it's important for people in Arizona to speak out against the health care changes being considered in Washington.
"We in Arizona believe that health care is an intensely personal matter and that no law should be able to stop anyone in this country — certainly not in this state — from spending their own money to buy the health care services that they want, and no one should be compelled to spend their money on health care services they don't want," Shadegg said.
Democratic state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Phoenix, an opponent of the ballot measure and a supporter of Obama's push for health care changes, said the overhaul in Washington won't result in a loss of choices for consumers and predicted the ballot measure, if approved, would become moot by the federal government's changes.
"Its value is in attempting to shape the debate," Sinema said of the ballot proposal. "Its value is not in making substantive changes at the state level, because federal law supersedes the state constitution."
Eric Novack, an orthopedic surgeon in metropolitan Phoenix who is leading the campaign for the ballot measure, rejected Sinema's prediction and noted that the current U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of protecting individual liberties.
Novack said the health care system needs major changes, but those who are remaking the system need to keep individual patient rights as a top goal.
"The goals were laudable that they started with in Washington, but it turns out the process is completely hijacked by the $600 million in lobbying money that got into it, and the bill that's coming out of Washington is, unfortunately, what I feared," Novack said.
Source: AP News