Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, and Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown have teamed up on legislation designed to give states some elbow room on how to deal with the individual mandate found in the health care reform legislation the Obama Administration ended up signing. But New Ledger colleague Ben Domenech finds some problems with the legislation:
Wyden-Brown would allow states to opt out of the individual mandate sooner than they can under the original legislation. Under the original language, which Wyden helped assemble, states must wait until 2017 to do so. Moving that date up to 2014 won’t achieve much if the Wyden-Brown measure doesn’t also take steps to relax the requirements necessary to receive a waiver. According to the bill’s language, they don’t take any steps to do so.
By merely changing the date, Wyden-Brown leaves intact the restrictive requirements states would have to meet to obtain the temporary waiver, which really does not address the problems many states face. Obama’s law demands that, in order to receive a waiver, states demonstrate they will cover more people under their plan than would be covered under the individual and employer mandates.
Essentially, this means states would have to prove a greater number of people will purchase a product under their alternate plan than would do so under a law requiring them to purchase that product!
If this seems like a silly Catch-22 for states, it is. The only policies that could meet this waiver requirement are single-payer constructs — which many other nations are moving away from, having tried them and seen them fail.
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