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Voters approve health care plan opt-out proposition

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Voters approve health care plan opt-out proposition

Voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure that would allow Arizonans to opt out of any federal or state health care mandate.

Unofficial returns showed Proposition 106 leading by a wide margin.

Supporters offered the proposition to amend the state constitution in anticipation of the federal health care reform law enacted earlier this year. They argued that Arizonans should retain control over their health care decisions.

"The majority of Arizona voters, I believe, have said very clearly that the decision belongs in the hands of families and not in the hands of politicians," said Dr. Eric Novack, chairman of Arizonans for Health Care Freedom.

The group raised $1.9 million through Oct. 13 in support of the proposition, according to a filing with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office.

Novack also chairs the U.S. Health Freedom Coalition, a national advocacy group that contributed $1.5 million toward the Arizona effort.

Groups opposed to Proposition 106 had raised less than $5,000 by Oct. 13, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Opponents said the measure could derail the benefits of health care reform in Arizona or, more likely, set up a costly and unsuccessful legal challenge over conflicts with the federal measure. Federal law almost always supersedes state laws in court rulings.

Shirley Sandelands, second vice president of the Arizona League of Women Voters, said, ""We have a very strong position that we would like to have affordable health care."

Regarding passage of the proposition, Sandelands said, "I have a feeling it will end up being adjudicated."

As of 2014, the new federal law will require employers to offer health coverage and, with some exceptions, make individuals purchase insurance if they aren't otherwise covered.

One of Proposition 106′s key provisions was aimed at allowing individuals and employers to pay directly for health care services without penalty.

Proposition 106 is similar to a failed ballot measure Novack pushed in 2008. State Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, authored the latest measure, which the Legislature referred to the ballot in 2009.

Arizona is among 20 states suing the federal government over the health care reform law that was the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's early initiatives. Republicans used the law, which political ads referred to derisively as ObamaCare, to fuel their efforts to unseat congressional Democrats.

The Goldwater Institute and the National Federation of Independent Business were among other groups supporting Proposition 106, arguing among other things that the federal effort would interfere with free enterprise.

The Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and the Arizona Public Health Association were among groups opposing the measure. Their arguments centered on the benefits the federal law will provide Arizonans, especially those who lack health insurance.

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