Federal Health Law Helping Cash-Strapped States -- And Right-wing State Leaders Lining up to Benefit


As the six-month anniversary of the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act approaches on September 23rd, many popular provisions of the health care law are set to take effect, including the expansion of coverage to young adults up to the age of 26 on their parents' plans; prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to children based on pre-existing conditions or rescinding coverage on those who get sick; eliminating lifetime limits on insurance coverage, and requiring insurers to provide free preventative care through all their plans.

One key benefit to state budgets is a new program to subsidize employer-provided health coverage for early retirees age 55 and older who are not eligible for Medicare. Employers eligible for the program include state governments, which will likely save hundreds of millions of dollars in coming years. 

Conservative State Leaders Calling for Repeal Enjoy Law's Benefits: Yet while the right wing continues their rhetoric of repeal, many of the same states calling loudly in both legislatures and courts for the law's rejection are simultaneously preparing to implement it and benefiting from the opportunities the health care overhaul provides them. In fact, a Department of Health and Human Services release revealed that, of the 20 states who have joined the constitutionally dubious multi-state lawsuit seeking to overturn the health care law, eight of them -- Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, and Washington -- were claiming subsidies for retired state government employees provided by the very law their states are arguing should be thrown out by the courts.

This hypocritical approach to federal health care implementation is not a recent development. Earlier last month, it was reported that a full 19 states who are suing the federal government to overturn the health care law also applied for grant money provided for in the law to "help improve the review of proposed health insurance premium increases, take action against insurers seeking unreasonable rate hikes, and ensure consumers receive value for their premium dollars." And as noted in previous Dispatches, states like Utah and Texas, who have joined the lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, are also taking real, constructive steps towards implementation.

Conservative leaders in a few states are choosing ideological rigidity over the needs of their constituents. Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty recently ordered all state agencies not to apply for any federal health care funding from the federal government if it was related to provisions in the new health care law. This short-sighted move has been vociferously opposed by many in the state, including Minnesota's largest private employer, the Mayo Clinic, who noted  they had already lost a projected $25 million in federal funding due to the Governor's directive. The Governor's order could end up costing the state a total of over $1 billion.

Right-wing Business Leaders Also Seeking Government Subsidies:  Hypocrisy on the new health care law also extends to the funders of the right-wing movement. As ThinkProgress recently reported, the same HHS release outlined over 2,000 employers -- "large and small businesses, state and local governments, educational institutions, non-profits, and unions" -- in all 50 states already accepted as participants in the $5 billion Early Retiree Reinsurance Program under the new law.  The HHS release also revealed that the applicants included the secretive energy-industry conglomerate Koch Industries, which spent millions of dollars opposing the new law. Progressive States Network recently reported on Koch Industries' ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council and state-based groups that continue to deny climate change.

As Progressive States Network continues to document, 28 states and counting across the nation have rejected legislative attempts to nullify the health care law, and the vast majority continue to move forward on aspects of implementation that will benefit their residents.