By PETER LANDERS
Voters in Missouri overwhelmingly opposed requiring people to buy health insurance, in a largely symbolic slap at the Obama administration’s health overhaul.
The referendum was the first chance for voters to express a view on the overhaul, although turnout in the state was low and Republican voters significantly outnumbered Democrats.
With all precincts reporting, 71% of voters supported Proposition C, establishing a state law that says Missouri cannot compel people to pay a penalty or fine if they fail to carry health coverage. Twenty-nine percent voted against the proposition.
The state law runs counter to the federal health law President Barack Obama signed in March, which calls on most Americans to carry coverage or pay a fine.
Some state attorneys general have challenged the insurance mandate as unconstitutional. Defenders of the law say the mandate falls within Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce and levy taxes.
The Missouri vote is likely to have little immediate practical effect because the mandate doesn’t take effect until 2014. If federal courts uphold the federal law as constitutional, it would take precedence over any state law that contradicts it.
Supporters of the state law said Congress was overreaching by requiring people to buy coverage, and they called the proposition a chance to stand up for states’ rights.
Opponents included the Missouri Hospital Association, which said that if the mandate isn’t enforced some who can afford insurance will get a free ride and pass the costs on to those who are insured. The association spent about $400,000 on direct mail in connection with Proposition C, according to its filings.
A June Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 44% think Mr. Obama’s health-care plan is a bad idea, while 40% called it a good idea.
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