Ohio Moving Forward With Federal Health Care Changes

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The state is, at least for now, ignoring the passage of Issue 3 and making the changes necessary to implement federal health care mandates.(Photo: File photo)
The state is, at least for now, ignoring the passage of Issue 3 and making the changes necessary to implement federal health care mandates.(Photo: File photo)

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the new federal health care law.

That’s after Ohioans overwhelmingly approved what supporters hope is a ban on such mandates.

With the passage of Issue 3, Ohio’s constitution says no Ohio law should require any person, employer or health care provider to participate in a health care system. And the amendment would affect laws in place on March 19, 2010 – the date of the signing of the federal law that requires Americans to buy and maintain health insurance starting in 2014.

While both backers and opponents of Issue 3 say it won’t have any effect on the federal health insurance law, some have been wondering if the state will go ahead with the setup of health insurance exchanges, the virtual marketplaces where consumers will go to buy insurance if the federal health care law is upheld.

When he took over as Attorney General, Mike DeWine had Ohio join 25 other states in filing suit against the federal law.

But DeWine says the state has to be prepared.

“There’s no one that can guarantee what the United States Supreme Court is going to do. And therefore Ohio will have to take the preliminary steps to move forward to assume that this law will actually be declared constitutional,” DeWine says.

And that’s just what’s happening at Gov. John Kasich’s Office of Health Transformation. Eric Poklar says the office is continuing to work on setting up those exchanges, which need to be in place by December 2012 or the federal government will set them up.

“One of the many problems with the exchanges is that the feds don’t yet understand what they’re supposed to look like,” Poklar says. “We’ll continue to work through these issues and ultimately determine a course of action that minimizes federal interference in Ohio’s health care marketplace and gives individuals and businesses as much control as possible over the future of their health care, which is what Ohio voters clearly said they want.”

Reporter: “Does the passage of Issue 3 change any of that?”

Poklar: “No, it does not.”

But Issue 3’s critics say there will be conflicts down the road. Dale Butland is with the progressive leaning think tank Innovation Ohio.

“Sooner or later – probably sooner rather than later – we’re going to have to go in and fix this law because it’s going to have an absolute chaotic impact on the state of Ohio and already existing laws,” says Butland.

Butland has criticized Issue 3 for months, saying it could derail laws on immunizations, pill mills, and on insurance for children in divorce settlements.

But Cathy Levine with the Universal Health Care Network of Ohio, who also supports the federal health care law and opposed the amendment, says she’s not too worried.

“I doubt Issue 3 is going to have any impact unless some aggrieved party claims that some state activity or local activity is in violation of Issue 3.”

Butland says he could envision a scenario where an abortion rights group could file a lawsuit saying the recent law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy is in violation of the amendment.

Attorney General DeWine sees that as unlikely.

Reporter: “But a scenario say where a pro-choice group would come to the state and say, Issue 3 prevents you from passing any restrictions on abortion and we’re going to file a lawsuit saying that these laws that were passed after March of 2010 are unconstitutional now – you don’t see that scenario happening?”

“No, I think that’s not, not correct. That would be a wrong interpretation.”

DeWine has said he doesn’t think Issue 3 will have any affect on state laws. And health insurance experts on both sides say individuals won’t see any changes until the US Supreme Court rules on the law next summer – and that might not even be the last word.

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