Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Health Care Industry Coordinating Effort To Opt States Out Of Health Care Reform

Original Link: http://thinkprogress.org/2009/12/29/health-sector-state-opt/

By Igor Volsky

As Congress prepares to pass the final health care reform legislation early next year, health care lobbyists are mobilizing legislatures in approximately 14 states to ratify constitutional amendments that would repeal all or parts of the new measure. “The states where the amendment has been introduced are also places where the health care industry has spent heavily on political contributions,” the New York Times notes:

Over the last six years, health care interests have spent $394 million on contributions in states around the country; about $73 million of that went to those 14 states. Of that, health insurance companies spent $18.2 million.

Overall, at least 21 states have indicated a desire to opt out of federal health care reform or block fundamental features of the reform bill, including mandatory health coverage. While Arizona, is the only state legislature to place an opt-out measure on the 2010 ballot, a significant number of gubernatorial and state legislature candidates across the country have also said that they are strongly “leaning towards” opting out of reform.

Lawmakers in Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana, Kansas, Texas, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Arizona, Alabama, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Louisiana, Alaska, Minnesota, North Dakota, Georgia Illinois and Florida have introduced ballot measures to protect their states from reform legislation or promised to spearhead such efforts if reform is enacted.

While it’s unlikely that conservatives and their health care industry allies could repeal health care reform, (they are more likely to water-down certain elements of reform), a successful challenge would devastate the populations suffering from the most pronounced health care crisis. A back-of-the envelope analysis conducted by ThinkProgress suggests that on average, the repealing states have experienced very substantial premium increases, high rates of uninsurance and annual percent growth in health care expenditures and higher insurance market concentration:

- 42% (9 of 21): have an uninsurance rate higher than the national average of 15.4%.

- 62% (13 of 21): have an average annual percent growth in health care expenditures that his higher than the national average of 6.7%.

- 62% (13 of 21): experienced premium increases of more than 75% between 2000 and 2007.

- 90% (19 of 21): are dominated by two insurers that control more than 50% of the health insurance market.

The effort to repeal health care reform “began at the conservative Goldwater Institute in Arizona” and was latter “picked up by the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], a business-friendly conservative group that coordinates activity among statehouses.” As the New York Times points out, “five of the 24 members of its ‘free enterprise board’ are executives of drug companies and its health care ‘task force’ is overseen in part by a four-member panel composed of government-relations officials for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association of insurers, the medical company Johnson & Johnson and the drug makers Bayer and Hoffmann-La Roche.”

Earlier this month, Lee Fang reported that Joan Gardner, executive director of state services with the BCBS Association’s Office of Policy and Representation and a member of ALEC’s ‘task force’ “played a pivotal role in crafting this anti-health reform states’ rights initiative.”

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