Wall Street Journal Examines State, Local Efforts To Address Issue of the Uninsured
The Wall Street Journal on Friday examined state and local efforts to provide health coverage to the uninsured, as political tensions and a "ballooning federal deficit" indicate that the federal government is unlikely to address the issue "anytime soon." State initiatives to expand health coverage include the Dirigo program in Maine, which is designed to provide coverage to residents whose employers don't offer coverage and who are ineligible for Medicaid; Healthy NY in New York state, which is designed to require insurers to offer low-cost health plans; and a new California law (SB 2) that requires some employers to provide health coverage to employees or pay into a state fund that will be used to provide health coverage, the Journal reports. Other initiatives include "three-share" programs in which employees, employers and local communities share the cost of health plan premiums. For example, Access Health in Muskegon, Mich., uses contributions from employees, employers and the county to contract directly with doctors and hospitals to provide employees with basic and specialty care, according to the Journal. "[S]tates and communities are starting to take things into their own hands," Paul Fronstin, senior research associate at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, said. Some advocates for the uninsured "welcome state and local efforts," but they maintain that only federal action will significantly lower the number of U.S. residents without health insurance. Economic and Social Research Institute President Jack Meyer said, "The states are good crucibles, good learning laboratories, but I don't think they can do this on their own ... there are 43 million uninsured and the states don't have the resources to bring this to scale." Further, states' efforts could be affected by "political and economic pressures," as many states are facing budget deficit that could strains their programs, the Journal reports (McGinley, Wall Street Journal, 1/9).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.