Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is not convinced president's offer would allow state solutions for health care reform. President Obama says states could get waiver on some federal rules by 2014.
BY Chris Casteel, The Oklahoman
WASHINGTON — Gov. Mary Fallin welcomed President Barack Obama's announcement Monday that states should get an earlier chance to design their own health care systems, but she said she was still concerned the law's mandates would hinder state solutions.
“I'd like to just opt out totally, you know, of the health care bill and allow Oklahoma its ability to innovate,” Fallin said here after she and other governors met with Obama at the White House.
The health care law — along with rapidly growing costs for Medicaid, the federal-state health care program — was a major topic of discussion at the National Governors Association gathering in Washington over the past few days.
Many states, including Oklahoma, are challenging the constitutionality of the health care law, specifically its requirement that individuals purchase health care insurance.
Obama told governors — many of whom oppose the law — that he supports a proposal by three U.S. senators that would allow states to apply for a waiver by 2014 to implement their own systems as long as they met the law's overall goals of providing affordable coverage to more people.
The law currently would allow such waivers in 2017, which is three years after the individual mandate and other requirements kick in.
“It will give you flexibility more quickly, while still guaranteeing the American people reform,” Obama told the governors. “If your state can create a plan that covers as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act does — without increasing the deficit — you can implement that plan. And we'll work with you to do it.”
Fallin, who opposed the health care bill when she was in Congress last year, said Monday that she was encouraged by the president's stance, “but it still concerns me that states won't have as much flexibility as I believe we need to have in establishing our own health care plans.”
Fallin said she wants to see federal Medicaid money distributed to states as a block grant, allowing states to set their own rules for eligibility and coverage. The health care law is expected to lead to even more explosive growth in Medicaid, though the federal government has promised to pay for newly eligible participants for the first few years.
On other topics, Fallin said:
That she talked to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about establishing an “aerospace triangle” in Oklahoma that would allow Tinker Air Force Base, Fort Sill, Altus Air Force Base and other government institutions and private contractors to work together on defense-related research and development.
That a U.S. government shutdown over spending issues would not be productive and could hurt states if funding streams were interrupted.