Jon Caldara's amendment to attack "Obamacare mandate" boosted by Virginia ruling

Thumbnail image for aa jon caldara holding a newspaper.jpg
Jon Caldara.
Yesterday, a U.S. District judge allowed a Virginia lawsuit attacking the new federal health-care law to move forward. The ruling surprised those certain that suits like one joined by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers would be laughed out of court -- and cheered the Independence Institute's Jon Caldara, who's pushing for a similar measure.

Caldara is hyping an amendment to the Colorado constitution dubbed the "Right to Health Care Choice." The proposed addition to Article II of the Colorado Bill of Rights reads in part:

(1) ALL PERSONS SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO HEALTH CARE CHOICE. NO STATUTE, REGULATION, RESOLUTION, OR POLICY ADOPTED OR ENFORCED BY THE STATE OF COLORADO, ITS DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES, INDEPENDENTLY OR AT THE INSTANCE OF THE UNITED STATES SHALL:

(a) REQUIRE ANY PERSON DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY TO PARTICIPATE IN ANY PUBLIC OR PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN, HEALTH COVERAGE PLAN, HEALTH BENEFIT PLAN, OR SIMILAR PLAN; OR

(b) DENY, RESTRICT, OR PENALIZE THE RIGHT OR ABILITY OF ANY PERSON TO MAKE OR RECEIVE DIRECT PAYMENTS FOR LAWFUL HEALTH CARE SERVICES.

As is clear from these passages, Caldara's document targets the federal requirement that, as of 2014, the vast majority of Americans must purchase health care insurance. In addition, it establishes the ability of Coloradans to pay directly for health-care services.

There are plenty of folks out there to whom these notions appeal. On Friday, Caldara submitted approximately 130,000 signatures on a petition to put the plan on the November ballot -- so many that it seems highly unlikely to fall short.

Caldara's pitch?

"We believe this is basic personal protection," he says. "This is a law that's looking forward in the years and will make Colorado a sanctuary state for quality health care." (Nice immigration allusion, Jon.) "And it makes sure we never become Massachusetts, and we never become Canada. In Massachusetts, you're forced at gunpoint to buy a product whether you want to or not, and in Canada, you're prohibited from paying cash for medical services, at least in most provinces."

According to Caldara, "this doesn't wipe away all the ills of Obamacare. But it does directly attack the mandate, whether it's Obamacare or Romneycare in Massachusetts or Rittercare or Hickenloopercare, that here in Colorado, the government can't force you into a health-care plan. We really want Colorado to become a mecca for quality health care, where physicians and caregivers realize it's a constitutional guarantee that if they wish to charge in cash, they can do so, and if people want to pay in cash, they can do so."

Unlike most legal experts, Caldara expects that suits like the one in Virginia have a good chance of success, if only because "for the first time in American history, people will be forced to buy a private product to a government's specification just because they happen to breathe oxygen." But if the suit fails, he believes his measure, if approved, "gives us a secondary legal front to attack the Obamacare mandate."

The result could make Colorado "ground zero" for the fight against the federal health-care law, he asserts. "Some states have put forward statutes to try to stop Obamacare" -- for instance, voters in Missouri are weighing in today on what's dubbed the Health Care Freedom Act. "But as far as I'm aware, Colorado would be the only state that would have something directly in the state's founding document saying the state can't force you to purchase health care insurance. Obamacare may come and Obamacare may go, but this is meant to be a permanent fixture in our Bil of Rights. It's not just to solve the immediate problem. It's for the next hundred years."

What kind of war chest does Caldara have to finance this fight if it's approved?

"We've got gobs and gobs of money," he jokes. "We probably have over $300 to spend, and we feel that if we can get that to over $500, or maybe even over $1,000, there's no stopping us."

But seriously, folks, Caldara thinks there's plenty of support for his idea.

"It's not like there's one big winner or one big loser who's going to back this," he says. "People have a stand on this already. So we'll be rolling a rock downhill instead of uphill, if you will. I think people will read this on the ballot, understand it and vote for it, because it's not a difficult thing to understand. And there are many people who want single-payer health care who dislike Obamacare, too -- people who've opined that the mandate to buy private products from private corporations is wrong.

"So this isn't just for angry conservatives. This is for angry liberals, too."

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