Missouri voters go to the polls Tuesday for the first-in-the-nation referendum on President Obama’s health care plan. It is likely to give Republicans a chance to brag about the unpopularity of Obamacare, but the vote will be largely symbolic. Courts will eventually decide whether Missouri and other states can legally trump federal law and exempt citizens from the mandate to buy insurance. But sending a signal to Washington will be victory enough for the Republicans and Tea Party activists pushing Proposition C.
“You don’t need to worry about the courts when the people are trying to have their say,” says Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri GOP. “The people are saying this is going too far. It’s a referendum on the overreach of the Obama Administration and the liberals in Congress.” The vote is as much about “anger and frustration” at all things Washington as it is about health care, explains Representative John Diehl, a Republican from St. Louis County who was one of the chief proponents of the referendum when it passed the Missouri legislature.
But the specific issue boils down to this: Can the government require that citizens buy health insurance? Mandatory insurance is a key element of the health care reforms passed by congressional Democrats and signed by Obama this year. Adding healthy people to the insurance pool spreads the cost of policies for people with health problems. Missouri’s referendum rejects that mandate by asking voters whether state laws should be amended to forbid penalties for failing to have health insurance.