By Mike Lillis
Earlier in the year, Sen. Ron Wyden championed a provision of the new healthcare law allowing states to ignore certain requirements in the law — even the individual insurance mandate — as long as they create alternative systems pre-approved by the White House.
This week, the Oregon Democrat explained (again) the thinking behind that provision.
"When it comes to health policy, what works best for people in Tampa Bay, Florida, doesn't always work as well for the residents of Coos Bay, Oregon," Wyden writes Friday in the Huffington Post. "For states to really be empowered to be innovative the federal government has to be willing to give states a little leeway to implement their own approaches.
"A state, for example, will struggle to offer a public option on its exchange if it has to follow the exact standards of the federal law that doesn't provide for one. And, of course, no state-based approach — no matter how innovative — can work if everyone who participates in the state program gets fined by the federal government for failing to comply with the federal mandate."
Under the Democrat's reform law, Wyden's waiver provision doesn't kick in until 2017. But the Oregon Democrat is already fighting to expedite that launch date, to 2014.
"The reason for this," Wyden writes, "is that it's a lot less cost effective for states to implement their own approaches in 2017 if they also have to pay to implement the federally mandated approach in 2014."