White House Says States on the Way to Heath Care Reform
Nearly two months before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in the country's sweeping and controversial healthcare reform law, the Obama administration announced Wednesday that every state in the country has taken some steps to move forward with its plan.
Observers, however, say many of those steps are incremental and that states may not be moving fast enough to meet looming deadlines to implement parts of the law passed two years ago.
Forty-four states are now participating in a requirement to make insurance companies justify any sky-high, double-digit premium rate increases, according to a new report released Wednesday by the White House.
The report also says 28 states and the District of Columbia are in the process of creating a one-stop shop for health insurance, where consumers could choose from a variety of health insurance plans. These so-called "exchanges" are a key component of the new law and would allow individuals and small businesses to search for better prices and more options in plans.
"We're very encouraged by the progress that our states are making," said one administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
States have until January 2014 to create the insurance exchanges, but officials in some states have expressed reluctance to begin implementing the law until the Supreme Court rules.
"States are in very different places, and it's likely there will be some states that will be ready… but a lot of other states, even though they may be taking action, may not be moving quickly enough to have a fully operational exchange," Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told ABC News. More than a dozen states have already passed legislation or established legal authority to create their exchanges, but the vast majority of states are still contemplating how to move forward, Tolbert said. And a handful of states are refusing to move forward until the court rules.
Although the issue of insurance exchanges is not directly before the Supreme Court, Republican governors and attorneys general for 26 states argue that Congress exceeded its authority in passing the law, which they say unfairly burdens the states.
The court will hear five-and-a-half hours of arguments over three days in late March. A ruling is expected by late June.