KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Republican Officials Attack Health Reform Bill

Republican state officials are escalating their opposition to elements of the proposed health care overhaul.

"At least 14 of the nation's 22 Republican governors have sent, or will soon send, letters to their respective congressional delegations claiming the Democrats' healthcare bills would bankrupt their states," The Hill reports. The group of governors is "working together in a coordinated attack on Sen. Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) healthcare reform legislation, according to GOP sources and documents obtained by The Hill." The governors say the bill is an unfunded mandate that will burden states with additional costs. "Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have been actively involved in the effort," but eight Republican governors are not yet on board. The Hill notes that "a Finance Committee Democratic aide disputed Republican assertions, stating that 'the benefits of health reform for states outweigh the costs. Under the chairman's mark, the federal government would cover nearly all of the costs of increasing Medicaid eligibility" (Hooper, 9/28). 

Meanwhile, "In more than a dozen statehouses across the country, a small but growing group of lawmakers is pressing for state constitutional amendments that would outlaw a crucial element of the health care plans under discussion in Washington: the requirement that nearly everyone buy insurance or pay a penalty," The New York Times reports. "Approval of the measures, the lawmakers suggest, would set off a legal battle over the rights of states versus the reach of federal power - an issue that is, for some, central to the current health care debate but also one that has tentacles stretching into many other matters, including education and drug policy."

Many of the proposals may be "mostly symbolic, intended to send a message of political protest, and have little chance of succeeding in court over the long run," but they "could create legal collisions that would be both expensive and cause delays to health care changes, and could be a rallying point for opponents in the increasingly tense debate" (Davey, 9/28).

Meanwhile, "[t]he Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, has secured a special deal protecting his state against the costs of expanding Medicaid under one of the major health care bills moving through Congress," The New York Times reports in a second article. After Reid complained to Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., about how his bill might affect Nevada, Baucus "modified the bill to spare Nevada and three other states, and Mr. Reid, who faces a potentially difficult race for re-election next year, is taking credit for getting a 'major increase' in federal money for his state."

"Under Mr. Baucus's original proposal, the federal government would have paid 87 percent of the new costs in Nevada. Under the modified version, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the new costs for the first five years." The revisions specify that extra help be given to "certain 'high-need states.' The states were not named in the bill. But only four states meet the criteria: Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Rhode Island" (Pear, 9/28).

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