CQ: Senate Republicans Sponsor Bill to Allow States to Opt Out of Parts of the Halth Care Reform Law

Jan. 31, 2011 – 7:57 p.m.
GOP Plans Bill to Allow States Exemptions From Parts of Health Care Law
By Emily Ethridge, CQ Staff
Two Republican senators plan to introduce a bill aimed at allowing states to opt out of the health care law’s major provisions.

John Barrasso of Wyoming and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said they would introduce a measure Tuesday that would allow states to get exemptions from the law’s expansion of Medicaid, its requirement that most individuals have health insurance or pay a penalty, and the requirement that businesses of a certain size offer coverage to their employees.

“Whether it’s an outright repeal, a state-based ‘opt-out,’ delaying implementation of its major provisions, or withholding funding, we will use every tool in the toolbox to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Graham said.

Neither Barrasso nor Graham was available for comment Monday, but it appeared their bill was targeted at giving states greater leeway in deciding how to proceed with implementing the law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152). In his decision Monday, U.S. District Judge Roger K. Vinson of Pensacola, Fla., declined to suspend the law pending appeals, leaving confusion about how the ruling might be interpreted in the 26 states that were party to the challenge.

Increased Flexibility
Observers said the Barrasso-Graham measure would help states with leaders who oppose the overhaul and those who say they cannot afford to implement the law’s provisions.

For example, the law asks governors to expand the Medicaid rolls without reducing any benefits or eligibility, said Michael O. Leavitt, a secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush and a former Utah governor.

“I don’t think the states want to uniformly leave Medicaid — they just want more flexibility,” said Leavitt, now chairman of Leavitt Partners, a consulting firm that specializes in health care issues. “One way to give them more flexibility would be to give them the ability to opt out of the expansion.”

Under the law, states can apply for waivers from some of the provisions beginning in 2017. But last year, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and Massachusetts Republican Scott P. Brown teamed up on a bill that would move up to 2014 the date when states would be allowed to opt out of certain obligations, including the requirement for people to buy health insurance. To be eligible for the waivers, states would have to offer alternatives that federal regulators deem at least as effective and affordable as what the law requires.

Wyden and Brown were expected to reintroduce that measure this week.
The Graham-Barraso measure will join several other bills Republicans have introduced to strike down parts of the law. In addition, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has a bill (S 192) to repeal the entire overhaul. All 47 Senate Republicans have signed onto DeMint’s measure.Top of Form 1

Source: CQ Today Online News
© 2011 CQ Roll Call All Rights Reserved.

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