Governors Find Health Care Bill LackingMarch 15, 2010 - 12:08 PM | by: Lee Ross
WASHINGTON — The health care overhaul pending in Congress puts too much of a financial burden on states, particularly when it comes to picking up the additional costs associated with expanded Medicaid, four rural state governors said Monday as they split over whether the bill should become law.
“We are concerned about the overall mandate laid out by the federal government coming down and what the cost would be to the state on an annual basis as the federal subsidy that’s being proposed for Medicaid starts to goes away,” said Gov. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.
“There’s a hole is this whole process for the states,” said Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski of Oregon.
“I don’t know whether if what ultimately passes will have that amount of flexibility or not,” added Vermont Republican Gov. Jim Douglas.
The two Republicans argued that the legislation is “unsatisfying” because it’s not something all Americans can embrace, but Kulongoski and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said while they have their own concerns, the legislation should pass.
It is “a quantum leap forward” from the present system, Kulongoski said, praising President Obama’s efforts to pass the bill.
However, Manchin did object to the lack of collaboration coming from Washington. The Democrat said the states are laboratories of ideas and can bring a lot of good suggestions to the table, but governors were excluded from the brainstorming process.
“Were we really asked to be a part of this process? … Did they bring us in? Absolutely not,” he said.
Beyond Medicaid, the governors expressed concerns on other issues they say lawmakers in Washington are ignoring. Kulongoski cited the problems associated with long-term care and the impending retirement of baby boomers who have seen huge reductions in their retirement savings.
“This is the next great crisis facing us,” Kulongoski said.
Rounds said part of the fix is to promote health care policies that encourage doctors and patients to be proactive in their care.
“Rather than just simply waiting until the accident happens, eliminate the problem in the first place or delay the onset of a long-term chronic illness,” he suggested.
Another popular solution for keeping costs under control is the ability of states to maximize their purchasing power by increasing their leverage over insurers and negotiating favorable deals. The broad idea of health insurance exchanges is favored by these governors provided the federal government is flexible enough to allow the states to marshal resources.
“This ability for the states to have purchasing power with their public dollars is a critical factor in actually bringing about reform to the system,” Kulongoski said.