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Obama Says States Can Opt Out of Health Care Plan Three Years Early

3 years ago
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In a nod to pressure from state governors, President Obama announced a plan on Monday to allow states to opt out of some aspects of the nation's health care reform law three years earlier than previously mandated. As currently written, the law says states must wait until 2017; the new bill would allow them to begin pursuing alternate plans as early as 2014.

As governors across the country have waged battles to trim large deficits -- most publicly of late in Wisconsin -- the move was seen as a concession to those leaders who have criticized the new health care law and questioned its economic implications. Twenty-six governors have filed lawsuits against the federal government, claiming the law is unconstitutional.

Sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the bill is called the Empowering States to Innovate Act. It would give states a waiver to pursue their own health care plans -- as long as those plans provide equally comprehensive, affordable insurance coverage to at least as many residents as the Affordable Care Act provides. And these plans would have to do so while insuring that they would not add to the federal deficit, according to a White House press release.

Obama administration officials cautioned that the bill was not to be interpreted as an effort to roll back the health care reform law. "The president has always said that states should be given enormous flexibility in how they achieve the goals of the law," said Stephanie Cutter, an assistant to the president. "It made good sense to embrace the idea to move the date."

Cutter added that Obama remained "open to ideas" for reforming the Affordable Care Act, and cited his State of the Union address this year, where he embraced revisions to the law involving a 1099 reporting requirement and malpractice reform. But, she cautioned, the White House was "not open to refighting the fights of the last few years -- or weakening the law."

As for alternate plans, the White House outlined several possibilities, including allowing large employers to purchase coverage through state exchanges, or increasing the number of benefit levels to provide more choices for individuals and small businesses.

The president's support of the bill has political implications at a time when many states have legally challenged the law's individual mandate, which requires most people to buy health insurance. Most of the court challenges have not been upheld, but two judges have ruled against the law in cases that will likely be decided eventually by the Supreme Court.

Cutter said that the new bill would not affect those lawsuits. "This moves a date," she said. "It doesn't have any real legal impact on the cases being argued across the country."

The president has never been a hard-core advocate of the mandate. As a candidate in 2008, he did not include a mandate in his health plan and expressed openness on the issue throughout the long and contentious debate that led to the groundbreaking bill's passage.

White House officials on Monday reiterated their belief that the mandate remained the best option, but said the bill left the door open for states to develop a better plan -- and implement it three years earlier. "If someone has a better idea," said Cutter, "so be it."

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430 Comments

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ELLEN

If you don't have health insurance you still get taken care of and we pay for you, it is time everyone has to have there own. I am tired of working for everyone.

March 07 2011 at 3:25 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
sysaphus71

If the 26 states that are suing the Feds because the Affordable Health Care Scam
is unconstitutional decide to opt out...then how is there a national health care plan? Just start all over and concentrate on making some kinds of coverage affordable or at the very least competitive.

March 01 2011 at 8:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sysaphus71's comment
smtrahdco1

Public Option. Its the only thing that makes any sense. Healthcare for the nation should be under social services not industry. You need to be a patient not a customer. Time to join the rest of the Western civilized nations.

March 01 2011 at 10:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ddrinsp

Gosh . . . I may be a little dumb here . . . but companies can "opt-out" on some of the mandates of Obama's healthcare .. . and states can "opt-out" on some of the mandates of Obama's healthcare . . . but individuals citizens are "mandated" to buy health insurance . . . no "opt-out" options. Looks to me like us average tax-payers will be paying for the "Affordable Health Care"

March 01 2011 at 4:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Charlie

When are people going to STOP BEING IDIOTS and STOP REFERRING to President Obama's health care law as socialism? THE SOCIALISTS OPPOSED THE HEALTH CARE PLAN! Strenuously! SOME people favor it, but those people AREN'T SOCIALISTS! Ask the socialists, they'll tell you that this health care law was just another corporate give away to big insurance companies. IT ISN'T SOCIALISM! Those who claim it is NEVER TALKED TO A SOCIALIST because a SOCIALIST would tell you THEY WERE AGAINST THE PLAN!

March 01 2011 at 4:03 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
Charlie

What I don't understand is--WHY WOULD ANYONE NOT WANT HEALTH INSURANCE? I can imagine someone going to the hospital and saying, "WHEW! Thank GOD I have health insurance." I cannot imagine ANY situation in which a person would say, "WHEW! Thank GOD I don't have health insurance!"

March 01 2011 at 3:59 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
willisearlray

A bad program becomes so much better if you just shift the cost down to the State level instead of the Federal. Come on Scott Brown are you that dumb?

March 01 2011 at 12:07 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
braindrain678

Buying health care and auto insurance are not the same. As someone explained on Fox (I wish they'd stop doing that!), not everyone owns a car. But if you take the dems point of view, even if you don't own a car, you still have to buy auto insurance. By the time Obama gives all his buddies a break, and all these companies are exempt, the middle class will be holding the bill, as always.

March 01 2011 at 11:56 AM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to braindrain678's comment
Charlie

Of course they're not the same. They're comparable. That's the concept of an "analogy". A comparison being made between two things that aren't exactly the same thing. Stop changing the subject by trying to say a comparison is an identification. Then, your claim that "even if you don't own a car" becomes nonsense... because they are NOT the same. EVERYONE needs to have healthcare.. NOT EVERYONE needs to have a car. That's one main difference, although there are other ways in which the two are similar.

March 01 2011 at 3:55 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Charlie's comment
AZ Stang

Well then 'everyone' who needs health care needs to earn it or buy it, like I do.

March 07 2011 at 1:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
Rob & Kathy

Obama's bill is in I.C.U.....

March 01 2011 at 11:47 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Erbie's

Corporations have used the numbers of employees for years to drive down prices, more jobs overseas, less employees on the insurance rates per employee go up, simple. Wouldn't it have been a lot better to make a Federal Co-op insurance agency, you could have 20 million people or whatever the real number is, driving the prices down, open the bidding to the insurance companies, lowest rates gets the co-op business, simple as that. I would say there could even be a profit margin in it for the Feds, for use in "special" cases, but they would just find a Mosque in Pakistan to refurbish with the money, and tell the people how much the program is losing money and call it an entitlement to people who paid the bill all along.

March 01 2011 at 10:34 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
Darius

can't believe people are still complaining about having to buy health insurance, especially anyone in Florida! State law in florida requires you to have automobile insurance, even if you don't have a car! and you can be ticketed for it trust me. No one has complained about this law but making sure people have health insurance is something to fight against???????? It's just getting to dumb here in America.

March 01 2011 at 10:27 AM Report abuse -42 rate up rate down Reply
5 replies to Darius's comment

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