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Proposal Accelerates State Opt-Outs From Health Care Law, but There is a Catch

November 22, 2010

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Scott Brown (R-MA) are hoping they’ve found a way for states to accelerate plans to opt-out of parts of the new federal health care law. But there’s a catch: states have to first complete a controversial provision in order to get out of some others.

The Senators, the Hill reports, introduced legislation on Thursday that would accelerate by three years a provision that would allow sates to seek waivers from controversial aspects of the legislation, including the law’s individual health insurance mandate.

Wyden, who originally voted for and helped craft the law, included the provision in the bill. Earlier this fall, he sent a letter so Oregon state health officials urging them to take advantage of that provision, a move seen by many as an admission that the bill was a mistake.

Now he’s hoping to accelerate that process. But as The Hill points out, there’s a catch:

In order to receive a waiver from the regulations, states would have to meet the healthcare targets that the federal law requires. States would need to set up a health insurance system that covers at least as many people as prescribed under the federal law, and the plans would have to meet requirements for affordability and comprehensiveness.

“It doesn’t make sense — especially given the current budget environment — to force states to put off or abandon health care innovations in order to fully implement the federal law,” Wyden said in a statement introducing the bill. “Bumping up the start date means that states can focus on ways to make the new health law work at its best from day one.”

Yet the Wyden-Brown bill may be a failed attempt because it goes against the all-out assault plan of Republicans. As new House Speaker John Boehner has made clear, he and fellow Repubs are not looking to change the bill, but rather repeal it completely.

From The Hill:

Republicans have already begun attacking the Wyden-Brown, saying it doesn‘t address major aspects of the Democrats’ bill such as requiring generous health coverage. Some conservatives have warned Republicans against seeking improvements to the health reform law, saying it is fatally flawed.

“You don’t want to improve the bill,” James Capretta, a former Office of Management and Budget staffer, said last month at a Hudson Institute event. “The bill is unredeemable.”

If the Wyden-Brown bill is successful, states would be allowed to request waivers as early as 2014 — when most of the law’s requirements go into effect — instead of 2017 as originally planned.

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