‘Opt Out’ Proposal Puts Focus on States

By: - October 27, 2009 12:00 am

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s call Monday (Oct. 26) for a new public health insurance plan already is prompting debate in state legislatures, which could opt out under the latest proposal being promoted by Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Utah House Speaker Dave Clark (R) told the (Salt Lake City) Deseret News that “we already have a health-care system in Utah that is bottom three in cost for the nation. As I understand the latest version (of health care legislation) – always subject to numerous changes – I would recommend Utah opt out.”

Utah Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Killpack (R) also expressed skepticism; another Republican state representative, Carl Wimmer, said he will introduce a bill in January “that will get us out.”

Former Utah governor and U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt, meanwhile, recently published an essay in which he contends that federal health-care legislation “perpetuates and accelerates a century-long emaciation of state governments,” the Deseret News notes .

In Nevada, “where the insurance lobby has a strong presence,” The Reno Gazette-Journal reports , “some advocates worry state lawmakers would take Reid’s offer to opt out. But with the state’s high rate of uninsured, others say Nevada would have no choice but to offer the government plan.”

Through a spokesman, Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) declined to weigh in on the public option, saying he needed more details – a position also taken by Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio (R).

With the opt-out clause dominating news coverage this week, expect to see more state officials weigh in as the health care debate in Washington evolves.

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