Prop. 101 backers concede it will likely not pass - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Prop. 101 backers concede it will likely not pass

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Posted: Monday, November 10, 2008 7:00 pm | Updated: 10:54 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Backers of a measure aimed at precluding state-imposed universal health care conceded late Monday the measure is going down to defeat.

Jeff Singer said a majority of voters in 12 of the state's 15 counties supported Proposition 101. But Singer said that was countered by a strong vote against the proposed constitutional amendment in Pima County.

And Singer said it is statistically unlikely that the gap - about 11,100 votes as of Monday afternoon, out of more than 1.9 million counted - could be overcome with the remaining ballots yet to be tabulated in Maricopa County, where the measure so far has a slim lead.

But Singer, a Phoenix physician, said last week's election was just the first act. He said there already is consideration for putting the idea back on the 2010 ballot.

This time, however, supporters will craft the language to spell out explicitly that it would not affect the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's program for providing insurance for those below the federal poverty level.

Questions about the breadth of Proposition 101 led Gov. Janet Napolitano to take a vocal role in urging Arizonans to defeat it.

Proposition 101 sought to put a provision in the state constitution stating that "no law shall be passed that restricts a person's freedom of choice of private health-care systems or private plans of any type."

It also would have barred the government from forcing people to enroll in any specific health care plan or pay a fine for refusing.

Singer said the main purpose was to preclude lawmakers - or voters - from setting up a "single-payor" system similar to what exists in Canada and what is being tried in Massachusetts.

It also came as Rep. Phil Lopes, D-Tucson, has been pushing a proposal to create a single health insurer in Arizona, financed by $35 billion being paid now in insurance premiums and medical bills by the state, as well as businesses and private individuals.

Napolitano is a fan of some type of universal health care. But she seized on claims by AHCCCS Director Anthony Rodgers that the wording of the initiative could undermine how the state agency operates.

AHCCCS now functions like a health-maintenance organization, paying medical providers a flat fee to provide all necessary care for each person enrolled.

Rodgers said the language of Proposition 101 could be interpreted to preclude such an arrangement, forcing AHCCCS to pay fees for each service provided to patients, a change he said could cost taxpayers $1 billion a year.

Singer called that a sham argument, even asking a judge to declare that Rodgers was illegally using state resources to campaign against the measure. The judge, however, said the law allows the state agency chief to "educate" voters about the potential effects of ballot measures.

Singer said he attributes the measure's loss in Pima County to the governor's popularity there. It also lost in Coconino and Santa Cruz counties.

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