Bills Would Increase Incentives for Health Care Reform
Federal lawmakers have introduced three bills that would "use states as laboratories ... for expanding insurance coverage, improving quality and controlling costs," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. According to the Journal Sentinel, the bills are "designed to get around Washington's deadlock on health care reform" and "acknowledg[e] that there may not be one sweeping solution that works equally well in states as dissimilar as Massachusetts and Mississippi."
Although they differ slightly, each of the three bills would encourage states to propose health care reform plans, which would be reviewed by a commission or task force that would recommend the best ideas for fast-track approval by Congress.
Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) introduced the first bill in May.
A second bill, introduced in July by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), would fund a certain number of pilot projects that would be funded partially by states. That bill would cost a projected $32 billion over 10 years, which would be paid for by offsets.
A House bill introduced in July by Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tom Price (R-Ga.) and two other co-sponsors would require that states' projects produce no net cost to the federal government after five years.
Supporters of the proposals maintain that state projects "might be the best hope for moving health care reform forward," the Journal Sentinel reports. In addition, the concept "appeals to conservatives and liberals alike" and "recognizes that state have taken the lead in health care reform" so far, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Feingold said, "It's a way to break through the philosophical divide," adding, "There's no way this is going to get done with only state resources."
Len Nichols, director of the health policy program at the New America Foundation, said, "You've got to have federal resources," adding, "But you've got to have state ingenuity. And that's what this proposal calls for" (Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/26).