California Healthline Highlights Health Coverage Expansion Proposals
The Christian Science Monitor and Los Angeles Times recently addressed state efforts to expand health care coverage. Summaries appear below.
The Christian Science Monitor on Monday examined proposals in Massachusetts to expand health coverage. Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has proposed a plan that would require all state residents to purchase health insurance, and separate plans have been approved by the state House and Senate.
Under both the Romney and state House plans, insurance companies would offer reduced-cost plans, with monthly premiums of about $200. Residents with incomes of up to $28,710 would be eligible for state subsidies to help pay the premium.
Under the House plan, residents who do not purchase coverage could have their driver's licenses suspended. In addition, the House plan would require employers to provide insurance and would impose a payroll tax on those who do not.
Meanwhile, the state Senate has approved a plan that would expand coverage but would not impose an individual mandate. The House and Senate bills will be considered for a compromise in conference committee as early as this week.
Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health, said, "This is the first time this idea is real and live before a state and legislature." He continued, "If a major bill passes in Massachusetts, it would be viewed as some model that should appear in the next presidential debate. If it collapses, people will say, 'There isn't a stomach for (a health care overhaul), even in a state like Massachusetts'" (Miller Llana, Christian Science Monitor, 11/21).
An increasing number of proposals by governors to expand health coverage "signal an escalating competition" between Democrats and Republicans "to develop models for coping with the slow-motion crisis in health care," columnist Ronald Brownstein writes in the Los Angeles Times.
On Tuesday, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) signed legislation extending health coverage to all uninsured children in the state, while on Wednesday, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) requested a waiver from the federal government that would "shift responsibility for providing health coverage for the state's poorest citizens primarily to private insurance companies," Brownstein notes.
He adds that Sanford's proposal is similar to a plan by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) that would shift Medicaid beneficiaries to managed care and cap the amount the state spends on each beneficiary. According to Brownstein, Blagojevich and Sanford's plans demonstrate the "divergent initiatives" being proposed in several "Democratic-leaning states" and "Republican states."
Democratic states are "rallying around" universal coverage proposals, while the "hot idea" in Republican states is shifting beneficiaries to managed care, he writes. Brownstein concludes, "Long after both governors are gone, it's likely that America will still be wrestling over whether its social safety net should look more like the vision Blagojevich or Sanford offered last week" (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 11/21).