KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Says He Backs State Flexibility For Health Law’s Coverage Goals

The New York Times: "In remarks to the National Governors Association, Mr. Obama said he backed legislation that would enable states to request federal permission to withdraw from the law's mandates in 2014 rather than in 2017 as long as they could prove that they could find other ways to cover as many people as the original law would and at the same cost. The earlier date is when many of the act's central provisions take effect, including requirements that most individuals obtain health insurance and that employers of a certain size offer coverage to workers or pay a penalty." This announcement marks "the first time" the President " has called for changing 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. The shift comes as the law is under fierce attack in the courts and from Republicans on Capitol Hill and in statehouses around the country" (Stolberg and Sack, 2/28).

Read the blog post by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the president's announcement.  

Politico: Obama "endorsed a plan, introduced last year by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.). ... It's the second, but most significant change to the law that Obama has endorsed. Last year, he said he would support repealing the 1099 tax reporting requirements. ... Obama also asked governors to form a bipartisan group to work with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on proposals to reduce Medicaid costs while covering the same number of people" (Haberkorn, 2/28).

The Hill's Healthwatch Blog: "President Obama came out in favor of a significant change to the healthcare reform law for the first time on Monday, backing a plan that could erase the implementation of the mandate to buy insurance. The president is supporting a plan that would allow states to receive waivers to pursue alternatives to the healthcare reform law, a change that could let states opt out beginning in 2014 from the requirement to buy insurance - one of the law's most unpopular elements" (Millman, 2/28).

The Washington Post: President Obama's comments signalled "flexibility on a law that remains unpopular with many Republicans." Obama also "defended the health care law, as well as his proposals to increase spending on light rail and other infrastructure projects, which some of the GOP governors have opposed. ... It's not clear if the governors, particularly the Republicans, will embrace Obama's health care proposal" (Bacon, 2/28).  

The Associated Press: About half the states are suing to overturn Obama's health care law, targeting its unpopular requirement that most Americans carry health insurance or face fines from the IRS. Obama told the governors that if any of them have better ideas, they're welcome to propose it and see if it works. First they would have to convince Washington that their approach covers at least as many state residents, provides equally affordable and comprehensive benefits, and would not increase the federal deficit (Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/28).

NPR's The Two Way News Blog: "States unhappy with the new federal health care law may be able to create their own version of the overhaul in 2014 - not 2017, as the law currently states. ... But under the new White House proposal, any state that chooses to design its own plan is still required to fulfill the goals and requirements of the health care overhaul" (Chappell, 2/28).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: "Standing before some of his toughest critics, the president sought to blunt criticism of his new health-care law by offering governors the chance to develop their own systems provided they meet two major requirements: cover as many people as the Obama plan at the same or lower cost" (O'Connor, 2/28).

CNN: Obama's announcement was an attempt "to seize the political middle in the continuing fight over health care reform." He also told the governors "that the country 'can't afford to kick the can down the road any longer' on festering fiscal problems relating to Medicare and Medicaid (Silverleib, 2/28).

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