The Agenda

Sen. Ron Wyden and the Case for Federalism

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post reports that Ron Wyden, the liberal senator from Oregon known for the Wyden-Bennett health reform plan, is hoping to secure a waiver from some of the more onerous provisions of PPACA for his state:

The Oregon Democrat is seeking to take advantage of a provision he helped write into the legislation that allows states to set up their own health care systems as long as they meet minimal requirements established by the Department of Health and Human Services. In a letter to the state’s Health Authority office, Wyden announced that he will introduce legislation to accelerate the start date for state waivers from 2017 to 2014, if not earlier for Oregon specifically.

Among other things, Sen. Wyden is seeking an exemption from the individual mandate, and so far the reaction from the federal government has been positive:

In a reply to Wyden, the state’s director-designee of the Health Authority, Bruce Goldberg, expressed his openness to allowing Oregon to venture away from the national health care reform package. In particular Goldberg discussed advancing the state’s insurance exchange (the veritable marketplace in which businesses and individuals can survey a variety of different plans) beyond the constrictions of Obamacare.

One wonders if governors and state legislators concerned about the impact of PPACA on their states might start developing their own waiver proposals. This could be an opportunity for conservative policy innovators to push the envelope and see how far they can go in the direction of root-and-branch reform of state health systems.

Might a modified version of Indiana’s experiment with HSAs survive scrutiny? And if not, why not? This strikes me as a more constructive path than challenging PPACA on constitutional grounds, an effort that however sound in principle is likely to yield meager returns. 

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