Obama Backs Easing State Health Law Mandates

This New York Times article summarizes President Obama’s remarks to the nation’s governors regarding State health law mandates. At a meeting of the National Governor’s Association, Mr. Obama announced that he was willing to amend the measure to give states the ability to opt out of its most controversial requirements, including the mandate that most people buy insurance. Currently, the legislation reads that states cannot apply for opt-outs until 2017. Mr. Obama said that he would support legislation allowing states to request opt-out waivers as early as 2014 as long as they meet certain requirements to expand coverage without driving up health care costs.

The announcement is the first time Mr. Obama has called for altering a central component of his signature health care law, although he has backed removing a specific tax provision that both parties regard as onerous on business.

But the prospects for the proposal appear dim. Congress would have to approve the change through legislation, and House Republican leaders said Monday that they were committed to repealing the law, not amending it. Even if the change were approved, it could be difficult for states to meet the federal requirements for the waivers.

The White House described the proposal, based on a bipartisan bill recently introduced in the Senate, as a common-sense date change that would give states the freedom to innovate and act as laboratories. Mr. Obama called it “a reasonable proposal,” telling the governors, “It will give you flexibility more quickly while still guaranteeing the American people reform.”…

The legislation would allow states to opt out earlier from a range of requirements, including the mandate, if they could demonstrate that other methods would allow them to cover as many people, with insurance that is as comprehensive and affordable, as provided by the new law. The changes must also not increase the federal deficit…

If states can meet those standards, they can ask to circumvent minimum benefit levels, structural requirements for insurance exchanges and the mandates that most individuals obtain coverage and that employers provide it. Washington would then help finance a state’s individualized health care system with federal money that would otherwise be spent there on insurance subsidies and tax credits.

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