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Wyden, Brown introduced bill to allow state waivers of health reform in 2014; current waiver provision won’t take effect until 2017

November 30th, 2010  |  Lucas Otto

Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.)  introduced S. 3958, which would allow an earlier start for state health care coverage innovation waivers under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Under the proposed legislation, states could implement waivers as early as 2014, when the individual mandate in the ACA takes effect. The current waiver provision does not take effect until 2017.

“I fought to include state waivers in the new health reform law because I have always believed that federal reform shouldn’t constrain a state’s ability to do better,” said Wyden. “That said, it doesn’t make sense – especially given the current budget environment – to force states to put off or abandon health care innovations in order to fully implement the federal law. Bumping up the start date means that states can focus on ways to make the new health law work at its best from day one.”

“States shouldn’t be forced by the federal government to adopt a one-size-fits-all health care plan. Each state’s health care needs are different,” Brown, said. “Our bill provides flexibility, and allows states like Massachusetts to opt out of portions of the health care law.”

Waiver specifics. The original waiver provision, authored by Wyden, is in Sec. 1332 of the ACA and allows states to waive some of the requirements of federal health reform if they follow these steps:

Step 1: The state passes a law to provide health insurance to its citizens.

Step 2: The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of the Treasury review the law, and determine that the plan meets the following tests:

(a) The state waiver ensures that individuals get insurance coverage that is at least as comprehensive as provided under federal law;
(b) The state waiver ensures that individuals get insurance coverage that is as affordable ( i.e., cost-sharing and protections against out-of-pocket spending) as it would otherwise be under federal law;
(c) The state waiver ensures that as many people are covered as under the federal plan; and
(d) The state waiver will not increase the federal deficit.