Lawmakers Eye Out-of-State Health Insurance

By: - April 27, 2011 12:00 am

LOOSER RULES: Two Republican governors — Jan Brewer of Arizona and Nathan Deal of Georgia — are expected to sign bills that would allow residents to purchase health insurance across state lines. Conservative lawmakers say the change would promote consumer choice, competition and lower insurance rates. Consumer and patient advocates oppose the idea, arguing that it would result in watered-down coverage in states that otherwise have high benefits standards. Georgia, for example, has stricter insurance laws than most states, requiring insurance companies to cover a long list of medical services such as breast cancer screening and well-child visits. Last year, Wyoming became the first state to enact an out-of-state health insurance law. Oklahoma and Montana lawmakers are considering similar bills, according to an article in Investor’s Business Daily

INSURANCE EXCHANGES: Lawmakers in Colorado , Connecticut , Montana , New York , North Dakota and Oregon are considering bills that would authorize health insurance exchanges as required under the federal health overhaul. Every state is required to set up a marketplace where consumers and small businesses can compare and purchase health insurance policies. Initial costs of the project are fully funded by Washington. So far, only California , Maryland , and West Virginia have enacted exchange laws since the federal requirement was enacted last year. Massachusetts , Utah and Washington State already had similar laws on the books, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Meanwhile in Wisconsin , Governor Scott Walker’s alternative to a health insurance exchange has opened its doors. By executive order, Walker, a Republican, created a new Office of Free Market Health Care and has launched a website to seek consumer suggestions on how to approach health care reform in Wisconsin. 

DRUG TESTS: Republican lawmakers in Maine have introduced proposals that would require drug testing of all Maine residents who are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. The bills, which opponents say are unconstitutional, would be similar to a proposal by Governor Rick Scott of Florida . Scott’s plan would require all potential welfare recipients to pass a drug test or forfeit cash assistance. 

BACK ON TRACK: More than two dozen states involved in federal lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law have a busy briefing schedule ahead, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to short-circuit the appeals process. On Monday, the high court denied a request by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to bypass lower courts and hear the case immediately. Now, Virginia’s lawsuit will move to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, where it is scheduled for hearings May 10.

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.