State Legislators Address Health Care Reform
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday examined the "unexpected" interest in expanding health coverage among both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers, at the same time that health care reform might "be dead in Washington."
A Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured survey released in October found that 20 states increased access to health care during the 12 months that ended in July. Expansions in nine states included reversals of previous cuts. Some of the expansions included "politically difficult steps," such as tax increases, the Times reports.
Meanwhile, 14 states placed new limits on access to health care, in most cases by raising premiums for programs covering children in low-income families, according to the KCMU study. The study found that more states are expanding health coverage because budgetary constraints have become somewhat less severe in recent years.
Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, said, "The fact that nothing is happening in Washington is not deterring states." Weil added that the absence of legislation in Congress is "because of a lack of agreement and, frankly, a lack of consequences for failing to address the issue. At the state level, if you have a Medicaid budget problem or a growing number of uninsured, you have to tackle the issue."
Robert Blendon, a public opinion analyst at the Harvard School of Public Health, said, "If any of these states succeeds, it could provide impetus for a national debate in later elections." He noted that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is supporting a major health care expansion in his state that would require people to obtain health insurance and provide subsidies to low-income residents. Blendon said, "The fact that a Republican is supporting a mandate is a huge leap" (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 11/13).