Many proposals swirling around Arizona and the rest of the country would increase government’s role in health care. Their common denominator: reduced individual choice and control over medical decisions.
Proposition 101, the Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act, would preserve the rights of Arizonans to make their own health-care decisions.
The initiative would amend the state constitution to protect against future schemes that would restrict individuals’ “freedom of choice of private health care systems or private plans of any type,” the “right to pay directly for lawful medical services,” or freedom to participate or not participate in health insurance programs. Essentially it would codify the choices we can exercise today.
It would not change existing health care policy in Arizona, but it would prevent health insurance schemes based on government coercion rather than freedom of choice. Those who oppose it hope that people will not read the initiative’s short, simple, and clear language, but will succumb instead to arguments that twist the language beyond recognition.
The campaign against Proposition 101 has consisted of a parade of what I call the “mighty mights” — scary things the initiative might do.
For instance, the directors of our state’s Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, have used taxpayer money to suggest that the initiative “might” harm that program. To the contrary, Proposition 101 would not affect AHCCCS because it is a voluntary program. If the state were to force Arizonans to participate in AHCCCS or any other health insurance program, that would be a different story.
Others have suggested that the initiative “might” affect the right to abortion one way or the other. It would not. The initiative merely preserves for individuals the right to pay directly for “lawful” medical services, leaving to the people or their elected representatives the power to determine what those lawful services are. Nor does the initiative require that any health insurance provider cover or pay for any specific services — that is a matter left to each health-insurance provider and the people who choose to patronize them.
Courts interpreting initiatives work diligently to interpret the intent of those who drafted and voted for them. Here the intent is clear: no change in rights or programs that Arizonans presently enjoy, but a healthy dose of protection against future government coercion.
It is not unusual for opposition campaigns to enlist the “mighty mights” when there are no good substantive arguments against an idea. Two years ago, many government officials campaigned against Proposition 207, the Private Property Rights Protection Act, predicting all manner of doom and gloom if it passed. The voters approved it overwhelmingly, and the sky did not fall. Arizonans as a result now enjoy greater property rights protections than citizens of any other state. So too will they have greater control over health care decisions if they approve Proposition 101.
Among those funding the “No on Prop. 101” campaign are large companies who want to ensure their piece of the health insurance pie, as well as special-interest groups who favor greater government control of health care. Those who support Prop. 101 differ on solutions to the health-care challenges that face Americans, and the initiative would allow a wide range of approaches.
But Prop. 101 would assure that whatever policies are adopted, they must preserve voluntary individual choice. Such freedom of choice, on matters as vital and intimate as medical care, is a bedrock of our free society.
That freedom is under serious assault. Prop. 101 would provide bulletproof armor against those who would take it away.
Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.