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Bill Would Allow States to Create Own Health Reform Plans

November 23, 2010
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WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Scott Brown (R- Mass.) have introduced legislation that would give states the flexibility to implement their own healthcare plans when the bulk of the new law goes into effect in 2014.

The Empowering States to Innovate Act would let states develop their own healthcare reform proposals—proposals that would need to cover as many people as the federal plan without adding to the deficit. If states are successful in the development of such plans, they will get the money they would have received from healthcare reform but also be exempt from the individual mandate, the employer penalty for not providing coverage, the exact standards for a basic health insurance policy, and the structure of the health insurance exchange.

Wyden originally authored the “Waiver for State Innovation” as part of his bipartisan Healthy Americans Act, which he first introduced in 2006. He then attached the provision as an amendment to the final version of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“I fought to include state waivers in the new health reform law because I have always believed that federal reform shouldn’t constrain a state’s ability to do better,” Wyden said in a release. “Some of the most innovative approaches to health policy have originated at the local level, where lawmakers have a unique insight into their constituents’ lives and the state waiver simply gives states the bandwidth to pursue those kinds of approaches.

“That said, it doesn’t make sense—especially given the current budget environment—to force states to put off or abandon healthcare innovations in order to fully implement the federal law.”

The current state waiver provision, however, doesn’t allow states to start applying for waivers until 2017. In addition to moving up the start date, Wyden and Brown’s legislation will allow states to apply for early approval so that their plans can go into effect in 2014.

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