White House Backs Questionable Health Care Waiver

In response to cries for help he heard yesterday from governors of cash-strapped states, the President announced he would support legislation that his top spokesman told HUMAN EVENTS “would speed up the innovation waiver for states with ideas of their own to pursue health care reform in their states.”

At first glance, it would seem that the legislation discussed by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney—which is co-sponsored by Democratic Senators Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Mary Landrieu (La.), and Republican Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.)—would give the states the flexibility that Republican governors have been pleading for to waive the requirement in the 2010 health care reform law that says states can’t limit eligibility for Medicaid without losing federal funding.

But this is not the case at all.  Instead, the measure that Wyden, Landrieu, and Brown are offering and Obama is endorsing would allow states to develop their own health care proposals as long as they cover as many people as would be covered under ObamaCare.

When Carney was asked by HUMAN EVENTS whether this was a waiver along the lines of those granted many states to deal with welfare rolls in the 1990s, he replied, “I don’t know how to compare it to that.”

Carney went on to say, “the President is very interested in the very good ideas that states might have to achieve the goals set by the ‘Affordable Care Act’ in different ways.” 

“In other words, this will allow the states to follow their own path toward health care so long as that path leads to the same goal that is reached by the ‘Affordable Care Act’—ObamaCare,” said Bill Felkner, director of policy for the Ocean State Policy Research Institute, the Rhode Island-based think tank that has long been in the forefront of calls for waivers for the states to work out fresh solutions to the problems of Medicaid and other health care issues.

Felkner explained that the measure the President endorsed yesterday (and Carney later explained) “will allow states to set up an exchange, or set up a single-payer program or anything else, as long as they end up in the same place as set out in ObamaCare.

“And that means dictating to the provider, taking the consumer out of the picture, and no free-market competition.”

Most of the states’ chief executives who met in Washington for the National Governors Association over the weekend said their main concern has been Medicaid.  Between 2007 and 2010, the Medicaid rolls were swelled by about 8 million.  The Wall Street Journal noted that “[t]he federal government picks up 57% of states’ Medicaid tab on average.  But in July, $26 billion in additional federal Medicaid funding will expire, leaving states to plug up a big budget hole.”  Hence, the call by all 29 Republican governors to waive the requirement in ObamaCare barring them from limiting Medicaid eligibility.

According to Felkner, the legislation embraced by Obama and trumpeted by Carney “doesn’t deal with the biggest problem states are having—namely, Medicaid—at all.”