Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is once again taking his opposition to the federal health care law to court, this time promising a lawsuit challenging the language that will appear on Missouri's Nov. 6 ballot.
The language -- crafted by Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan -- attempts to summarize a measure passed by the Republican-dominated General Assembly that would allow voters to decide whether the governor should be allowed to set up an online marketplace for patients to shop for insurance policies.
These health care exchanges are a key provision of President Barack Obama's health care reform law.
The ballot language asks voters: "Shall Missouri law be amended to deny individuals, families and small businesses the ability to access affordable health care plans through a state-based health benefit exchange unless authorized by statute, initiative or referendum or through an exchange operated by the federal government as required by the federal health care act?"
The language was immediately greeted with outrage from Missouri Republicans. Kinder, who sued the federal government in 2010, claiming the health care reform law was unconstitutional, called Carnahan's ballot language "extremely biased."
On Thursday, he announced he was filing a lawsuit challenging the language. He is inviting legislators to join his lawsuit.
"In my 19 years in public office, I have seen no ballot language proposed by a secretary of state that even approaches this in its outrageousness," Kinder said, later adding: "She words it as though the Obama White House had written the language. There is nothing fair or accurate about that ballot summary."
Kinder said he would attempt to raise private funds to pay for the legal challenge, a tactic he employed in 2010 when he created a nonprofit to pay for his federal lawsuit. Almost all the funding for his lawsuit came from Revere America, a Washington, D.C.-based group dedicated to repealing the health care law.
He said he may use the same nonprofit, now called Health Care In Action Inc., to fund his new lawsuit.
But Ryan Hobart, Carnahan's communications director, predicted Thursday that Kinder's lawsuit will not be successful.
"We maintain that our language is a sufficient and fair summary of the ballot measure and are confident it will hold up in court," Hobart said.
The exchanges are designed to be online marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can compare and buy private insurance plans. The aim is for competition and the free market to help bring down health insurance costs.
States have until 2013 to design the structure of the exchange and the criteria that insurance plans must meet to be included. If a state declines to start one, the federal government can step in and do it.
During the 2011 legislative session, the Missouri House unanimously voted to establish a health insurance exchange. But the bill stalled in the Senate.
This year, lawmakers opted to wait for a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the health care law. In a 5-4 ruling, the law was upheld.
Republican lawmakers said they put the issue on the ballot out of concern that Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's administration could set up a health exchange on its own over legislative objections.
However, Nixon has repeatedly said he would not set up an exchange through executive order.