Bipartisan Proposal Aims To Change Health Law’s Individual Mandate Rule
On Thursday, Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are expected to introduce a bill (S 3958) that would allow states to opt out of the individual mandate in the federal health reform law three years earlier than they originally would be permitted to under the law, Politico reports.
Under the overhaul, most U.S. residents by 2014 must purchase health insurance or face a financial penalty. States in 2017 could apply for mandate waivers if they meet HHS' minimum coverage requirements.
However, the Wyden-Brown bill would move ahead the application submissions start date to 2014, the same year that the mandate is slated to be implemented. Although Wyden co-sponsored the original waiver provision, he has been critical of the 2017 start date because the law requires states to establish mandate-centered systems even if they intend to apply for waivers to opt out of the mandate, Politico reports.
Brown said that the new bill would provide states with greater flexibility to adjust to the law and opt out of certain provisions. He added, "States shouldn't be forced by the federal government to adopt a one-size-fits all health care plan. Each state's health care needs are different."
Politico notes that the bipartisan bill is prominent because it marks the first GOP-sponsored effort to revise the law, rather than repeal it, as well as an effort by Democrats to ease one of the law's controversial requirements.
Wyden sought to head off criticism that the new legislation might be viewed as a form of resistance against the law, saying, "Clearly by HHS putting in place the coverage framework, you make it clear a state can't go off and do nothing" (Kliff, Politico, 11/17).
Nelson Requests Information on Mandate Alternative
In related news, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has requested that the Government Accountability Office examine possible alternatives to the individual mandate, Kaiser Health News reports.
Jake Thompson, Nelson's spokesperson, said that the senator's request does not signal his intention to distance himself from the mandate, but instead is an effort to seek out "possible replacements" that would encourage the maximum number of individuals to obtain health insurance.
Nelson is up for re-election and is under political pressure because of the health reform law. According to KHN, that makes his GAO request significant because it could demonstrate that he is willing to work with Republicans to repeal and replace unpopular elements of the overhaul.
A Republican strategist noted, "Nelson is from a deep red state that is adverse to any mandates from the federal government, so it makes sense that he'd look for ways to back away from the individual mandate" (Vaida, Kaiser Health News, 11/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.