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Dept. of Dodged Bullets -- No Individual Mandate Repeal on 2012 Ballot

Posted by John McDonough  November 23, 2011 11:07 AM

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I lost a bet last night. I was convinced that the folks gathering signatures for an initiative petition to repeal the Massachusetts health care individual mandate in 2012  would collect the necessary signatures one way or another. I was so confident, I bet lunch with my pal, Brian Rosman from Health Care For All. Then I got this email last night from Massachusetts Citizens for Life:

We want to update you on the status of our petition. As you know, there has been a huge amount of publicity about the similarities of Obamacare and Romneycare, so it has been a very worthwhile effort. Something unexpected happened which has changed to entire picture. A petition "Death with Dignity" has been filed. It is of such importance to the pro-life community that most of the pro-lifers working with us have turned their attention to fighting "Doctor Prescribed Suicide". Without those pro-lifers on the team, we have not had the volunteers needed to gather the 69,000 signatures.

Why was I surprised?

Well, the campaign's lead organizer, Bridget Fay, is an experienced Republican and Tea Party activist, a young and energetic attorney worth watching.  While it was difficult to see how derailing Massachusetts health reform would advance the goals of the state's pro-life movement, this effort certainly would advance the goals of conservative Republicans and Tea Party activists.  So that made sense.  And naming the campaign "Repeal RomneyCare," well, what more proof was needed?  Winning such a campaign -- even just waging a credible effort -- would be a flash point across the nation in the campaign against ObamaCare.  And the cost of financing the effort?  Pocket change for well-heeled conservative activists such as the Koch brothers.   

Shows what I know. 

The first telltale public sign of trouble came a few weeks ago when Fay expressed frustration to the State House News Service that her entreaties for financial support to the presidential campaigns of Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman had gone unheeded.  Oops.

I never understood why MA Citizens for Life would make MA health reform repeal their marquee issue, especially when the Death with Dignity/Physician Assisted Suicide ballot initiative was looming at the same time.  (That effort, by the way, has more than sufficient signatures to proceed.)  Opposing that initiative, now that's mission central for MCFL.  And that fight will be intense and emotional.

So the Massachusetts health community has dodged a bullet.  Massachusetts voters have a tradition of overturning apple carts -- recall the 1986 repeal of the mandatory seat belt law and the 2010 election of Scott Brown.  In some ways, a campaign to sustain MA health reform might have been regenerative for a health community divided over payment reform and other daily disputes.  But I don't expect to find many shedding tears.

We'll find other things to do.  And I owe someone a lunch...
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

John E. McDonough is a professor of practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is the author of the book “Inside National Health Reform”, published in 2011 by More »

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