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NCSL Message to HHS: Allow State Flexibility

During a discussion on healthcare implementation on April 16 in Washington DC, state legislators from all over the country had a clear message for the...
April 19, 2011

During a discussion on healthcare implementation on April 16 in Washington DC, state legislators from all over the country had a clear message for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); allow the states to be innovative in their approach to implementing health care reform. During the meeting, it was clear that states were taking very different approaches to increasing availability and affordability of health insurance. Vermont, for example, does not think the federal reforms go far enough so they are in the process of implementing a single payer system. On the other end of the spectrum are states like Nebraska where legislation was introduced making it a felony to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

The states also vary greatly on their plan to use independent agents with some states specifically including them and others trying to cut them out. Representative Herb Conaway, a physician from New Jersey, is co-chair of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Task Force on Health Care Implementation. He said he would like to cut the agents out of the health insurance delivery system, but acknowledged they are a powerful force and will not be easily eliminated. Most legislators and regulators recognize the value of agents and know that if agents are cut out of the marketplace, consumers are going to seek answers from somewhere; most likely their legislators and regulators.

Representative Greg Wren (AL) said he hopes HHS will have a giant stamp marked "approved" when it comes to their review of state exchanges. Representative Wren noted that HHS has not approved any exchanges and has given very little guidance as to what they are looking for. PIA National continues to advocate for the inclusion of licensed, trained professional insurance agents to be available to assist consumers with the myriad of new health insurance choices available to them.

On Friday April 15 a bipartisan delegation of 11 state legislators participating in the NCSL Spring Forum visited the White House and met with President Obama and Vice President Biden. They discussed deficit reduction and health care reform, voiced their opposition to unfunded and under-funded federal mandates, and promoted the Main Street Fairness Act, which would allow states to collect sales tax for online purchases.

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