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While DC Delays, States Move Forward on Health Care Reforms

As Congress delays moving forward on the passage of comprehensive health care reform, progressive state leaders from across the country have been demanding passage of reform as critical for families across the nation.  But that doesn't mean they are waiting; state leaders are moving forward, laying the groundwork for how national changes should be implemented, and creating the momentum for other meaningful health care reforms in their states.

Public Options and Universal Coverage:  In Iowa, SB 2092 would establish the Iowa Choice Exchange -- a form of the public option -- to serve as an information clearinghouse where businesses and consumers could compare health insurance policies.  This would be combined with IowaCare Plus, which would subsidize health care for working families fully up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) with help up to 400 percent of FPL for buying more restricted health insurance.  Sen. Jack Hatch (Des Moines) emphasized the reality that "We cannot do this without a fair and appropriate partnership with the federal government."

Connecticut, building on the enactment of their comprehensive health care reform plan SustiNet in July 2009, will be moving forward to phase it in by 2016.  By 2014, it is estimated that 98 percent of Connecticut residents will be insured with a comprehensive benefits package.  Sustinet will give every patient a medical home, ratings will not be based on age, gender or health status, and coverage will be guaranteed for chronic or pre-existing conditions.  Other new coverage and insurance reforms include:

  • Vermont's HB 510 would establish “Green Mountain Care,” creating a public health coverage option with sliding scale premiums and cost sharing.
  • Missouri's Universal Health Assurance Program (HB 1641), which would provide for a publicly financed, statewide insurance program, was introduced on January 13th.  If passed, the program would provide timely access to health services for all residents, adequate funding for health care, and lower health care spending through streamlined administration and uniform payments.
  • California's Universal Health Care Act (S.810) -- approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee this week - would enact a single-payer health care system for the state and create a commission to decide how to pay for the plan and then submit the funding plan to voters through a ballot initiative.
  • Maine's LD 1620 would eliminate annual and lifetime benefit caps from private insurance policies.

Implementing Federal Reform:  Other states are establishing the framework for implementing whatever reforms are enacted by Congress:

  • A bicameral concurrent resolution in Washington state would create a joint select commission to study the implications of health reform implementation to coordinate policy discussions between the state’s legislative and executive branches to identify dedicated resources, establish clear authority and accountability, a detailed timeline, a critical path analysis, resources and analysis of needs, and a communication strategy.
  • A similar Joint Select Committee to study Maine’s role in the implementation of federal health care reform received unanimous (13-0) approval by the Joint Committee on Insurance & Financial Services.
  • The Texas House has established a House Select Committee on Federal Legislation, with a specific emphasis on implementing health care reform efforts.  The chair will be Representative John Zerwas and the Vice Chair will be Rep. Garnet Coleman, who also serves as co-chair of the Progressive States Network Board.

Prescription Drug Campaigns:  States across the country are also moving to introduce reforms to cut the costs of prescription drugs, many based on models from PSN’s Multi-State Agenda Rx Reforms campaign.  Bills have been introduced in Arizona and Iowa while other states likely to introduce reforms include Alaska, Hawaii, New York, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin, with bill introductions possible in a number of other states.

Resources:
Progressive States Network - State Leaders Weigh in on Final Health Care Reform Bill
Progressive States Network - State Public Health Insurance Plans are Models for National Health Reform
Connecticut House Speaker Chris Donovan - Connecticut Healthcare Partnership
Progressive States Network - Rx Reforms to Address Budget Deficits and Ensure Quality of Medications