Prop. C would protect health care freeloaders at our expense.

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Supporters of Proposition C say the nation's attention will be riveted on Missouri on Aug. 3 as voters here line up to cast their primary election ballots.

Do people in other states really care if we allow involuntary dissolution of certain investor-owned health insurance companies?

That's what Proposition C — or at least the legally enforceable part — is all about.

The rest? The part that would exempt Missouri from parts of the new federal health care reform bill? That's just politics.

Supporters of the measure, which include Republican office holders and well-funded "astroturf" groups, would have you believe otherwise. That's not a surprise. It's in their financial interest to keep fanning the flames on phony issues.

They say Proposition C is about protecting individual freedom and states' rights. They tout the vote's symbolic value, which they see as the first shot in a battle to repeal the national reforms.

But the truth is that regardless of what happens in Missouri on Aug. 3, the health care reform will remain in effect on Aug. 4.

The language of Prop C takes aim at the so-called individual mandate.

Beginning in 2014, individuals will have to show proof that they have health insurance coverage. Those who don't will have to pay a tax to help offset the cost of covering the uninsured and caring for those without insurance.

As we've previously noted, Republicans have been the most reliable champions of an individual mandate over the past 15 years. U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., backed an individual mandate in 1994 as part of a Republican alternative to the Clinton health care reforms.

Now, however, state Republican leaders are saying that the individual mandate would rob Missouri residents of freedom. They're absolutely right, but only because people who choose not to buy health insurance no longer would be free to stick the rest of us with the bill for their medical care.

People who refuse to take responsibility for themselves and their families no longer would have the freedom to make the rest of us to pay higher health care prices.

Health care reform opponents are not shy about abusing the facts.

Last summer, they packed town hall meetings to rail against imaginary death panels. They're still denouncing the market-based health care reform law as 'socialized medicine," which it most definitely is not.

Now comes Carl Bearden, the long-time St. Charles lawmaker-lobbyist, now just a lobbyist who is heading a group supporting Proposition C. In a commentary released this week, Mr. Bearden warns darkly about the impact of federal health care reform.

"Employer-paid (insurance) programs would be mandated," Mr. Bearden writes, "leading to the loss of ... employer plans."

In other words, making companies offer health insurance to their workers will cause those companies to drop health insurance coverage for their workers. Got that?

Mr. Bearden also warns that "when government determines the level and scope of care, it negatively impacts quality of care and life."

But there's nothing in the federal health care reform law that lets government determine how much or what kind of care doctors provide — only a requirement that insurance companies underwrite a certain portion of the cost.

Proposition C is nothing but a taxpayer-funded political exercise designed to raise cash for Republican candidates, consultants and causes. No wonder they call it Prop C.

Voters will have a say on federal health care reform in November, when they vote in congressional elections. By then they may have figured out how much it benefits them.

Meanwhile, they should reject the August charade and Vote No on Proposition C.

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