Ohioans Consider Health Care Issue

Editor’s note: This article is the third in a three-part series examining the state issues that will appear before Ohio voters in the Nov. 8 general election.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Ohio voters will indicate Nov. 8 whether provisions of the new federal health care law should be applied in the state, but their decision may be irrelevant since the final ruling on the issue likely will come from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Voters who say “yes” to Ohio Issue 3 oppose any law or rule that mandates any person, employer or health care provider participate in a health care system in the state. Also, they are rejecting any law that prohibits the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance in Ohio.

Those casting a “no” vote agree with health care reform legislation as passed by federal lawmakers.

Issue 3 is a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution.

“Taxpayer dollars will be wasted on this issue,” Rep. Lou Gentile, D-Steuben-ville, said. “It’s a political issue being used in a very important, off-year election to energize a segment of the population, and many believe it will have no effect because states cannot override federal law. They are wasting taxpayer dollars to prove a point.”

But Diana Kennon, chairwoman of the Belmont County Republican Party, said the proposed amendment could send an important message.

“I really don’t believe in government mandates of a personal nature,” she said. “If the government can mandate insurance, why not anything else?

“There is a difference between health care and health insurance,” she added. “Health insurance hides the true cost of health care, and we have developed a system that takes control away from the consumer. The mandate doesn’t solve the problem of the expense of health care.”

Rep. Alan Landis, R-Dover, said businesses need to know what their operating costs are going to be, and that includes how much they will have to pay for employee health insurance benefits. The lack of foresight could result in a lack of new jobs being created, he continued.

“It’s an unknown thing how much it will cost to add one employee – or 100 employees,” Landis commented. “Employers just want to see where this all shakes out at – and that’s of utmost importance to us.”

Ed Good, chairman of the Belmont County Democrat Party, said there is a host of reasons why new health care reform legislation should stay in place. These include protections for those facing “catastrophic” medical bills who otherwise need to file for bankruptcy, he said, and that patients will retain the right to choose their own doctor.

“Whatever happens, it’s going to be decided by the Supreme Court anyway – sooner rather than later,” Good added.

“At this point, I’m not sure my personal opinion makes a difference,” said Mark Thomas, a St. Clairsville lawyer and former county commissioner. “I don’t know if the vote will have any legal effect in Ohio, as the amendment will ultimately be challenged in the courts under the ‘supremacy clause.’ Federal law takes precedence over state law in this case.”

Thomas said he does not believe Issue 3 is “an applicable provision of the Ohio Constitution.”