January 18, 2007
Voinovich pushes health-care bill that would rely on states
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON Sen. George Voinovich has joined with other lawmakers
from both parties who doubt Congress will agree on comprehensive
health-care reform anytime soon and now are pushing what they
hope is the next-best solution.
They introduced legislation Wednesday that would encourage
states to experiment with their own approaches to providing
coverage to those who lack health insurance.
More than 45 million Americans are without health coverage at
some point during the span of a year.
Voinovich, R-Cleveland, called extending coverage to the
uninsured "the greatest domestic challenge that this nation
faces" during a press conference to discuss the legislation.
"It's about time we do something about it," he added.
DETAILS OF LEGISLATION
The legislation would encourage states to come up with their own
plans to provide health coverage by making it possible to obtain
waivers from federal laws that regulate the use of tax money
It also would provide grants to cover some costs of new
Under the proposal, a bipartisan state health innovation
commission would review health-care proposals submitted by
states, groups of states or portions of states.
The commission would determine which proposals are the most
promising and ask Congress to provide financial support for
Several states - including Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts -
already have implemented their own health-care plans that
provide subsidies for low-income individuals. Ohio soon could
Gov. Ted Strickland pledged during his campaign to seek a
federal waiver allowing the state to get additional federal
funds, which would be used to provide subsidies for uninsured
individuals to purchase private health insurance.
Strickland's proposal would provide coverage to an estimated
300,000 Ohioans whose incomes are modest but not low enough to
qualify for Medicaid, the federal health-care plan for the poor.
Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said he didn't know if the
Voinovich proposal would provide a platform for Strickland's
waiver request - or whether Strickland could more easily get
approval for his plan outside of the proposed legislation.
The governor has not said when he will seek the waiver.
Voinovich and other lawmakers contend that no major health-care
reform will pass Congress because there's no consensus on the
For example, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., one of the sponsors of
the House bill, said she favors a single payer system run by the
government. Other lawmakers prefer market-based approaches, such
as health savings accounts that give consumers an incentive to
shop around for the best price.
"No single approach has enough support to become law," Baldwin
VOINOVICH ON REFORM
Voinovich said it's unrealistic to think Congress will pass a
major health-care reform bill before the 2008 election.
But he explained that if his plan is approved, it will generate
"real good ideas" from the states that could be tested and
eventually might lead to a consensus in Congress.
In the meantime, the legislation would result in increased
health-care coverage, he said.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., joined Voinovich in introducing the
Senate version of the plan. Reps. Tom Price, R-Ga., and John
Tierney, D-Mass., co-sponsored the House bill with Baldwin.
The legislation is similar to bills that were introduced last
year but failed to get a hearing in the House or Senate.