Obama administration announces support for acceleration of health care waiviers for states

Amanda Carey Contributor
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The Obama administration announced support for the acceleration of a provision in the health care law entitled “Waivers for State Innovation” Monday. Under the law as it is currently written, states can start obtaining waivers from the Affordable Care Act and pursue their own health care agendas in 2017. Now, that process could begin in 2014.

In other words, states will have the leeway to pursue health care policies, irrespective of the new Affordable Care Act, so long as the policies meet the same objectives the Obama administration has laid out in its health care agenda.

The move to speed up the state waivers is being hailed by the White House as simply allowing states to have the “power and flexibility to innovate and find the health care solutions that work best for them.”

For a state to obtain a waiver, its health care solutions must fit two criteria. The state must provide affordable insurance to at least as many residents as the Affordable Care Act and it must not increase the federal deficit.

Also, according to a White House press release, the Obama administration will issue waivers to states with policies differing from the health care law so long as those policies match the comprehensive coverage that will be offered through the government exchanges and the coverage is as affordable.

The proposal to speed up the state waiver process was first introduced in a bipartisan bill titled “Empowering States to Innovate Act,” that was introduced last November by Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

The State Innovation Waivers will last for up to five years, with the option of renewal once it has expired.

This move by the White House comes after a number of states have challenged the constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate, and judges in Florida and Virginia have ruled the law unconstitutional.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – the federal agency charged with ensuring the law’s implementation – has also been issuing hundreds of waivers to businesses that argue the law will cause their costs to skyrocket.