Highlighting the outrage at insurance industry abuses pushing Congress
towards a final decision on federal health care reform, state
legislators continue to advance their own insurance reforms, even as
they lay the groundwork for implementing the policies that will emerge
in a federal bill.
This Dispatch will: highlight a few of the state insurance reform campaigns underway and the health insurance problems they highlight; detail how to message these campaigns to support federal reform; provide a roundup of policy options and model bills for other states interested in moving similar insurance reforms; and end with a set of resources on the campaign, including national policy organizations, key reports, and bills moving across the country.
Both national conservative leaders and a number of state legislators
have attacked the current federal health bills as infringing on "state
sovereignty." Yet they oddly ignore the fact that two of the main
planks in conservative health proposals proposed by Congressional
leaders -- allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines and overriding state medical malpractice laws through "tort reform" -- are far clearer attacks on state authority.
As Congress delays moving forward on the passage of comprehensive
health care reform, progressive state leaders from across the country
have been demanding passage of reform
as critical for families across the nation. But that doesn't mean they
are waiting; state leaders are moving forward, laying the groundwork
for how national changes should be implemented, and creating the
momentum for other meaningful health care reforms in their states.
Under the guise of "choice" in health care, conservatives are launching a state-based campaign to derail health reform. With support from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), conservative legislators in at least 24 states are introducing a bill that says no one shall be required to purchase health care from the government or a government-defined health plan or be prevented from buying private insurance, and that residents shall have the right to pay for health care directly out of pocket.
A story from Maine offers up another reason why we need the choice of a
public health insurance option, and it's a doozy. Anthem Blue Cross
and Blue Shield of Maine, a subsidiary of the insurance giant Wellpoint, is suing the State of Maine
because the insurance commissioner refused to approve its request for a
rate increase of 18.5% for its individual products, which included a
guaranteed 3% profit. Commissioner Mila Koffman found Anthem's request
"excessive" and approved a 10.9% average increase in premiums.