Bill would offer states health reform alternative options

A bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) would let states opt out of certain requirements of the federal healthcare reform law in 2014 instead of 2017, if they meet minimum coverage benchmarks, the Washington Post reports.

Under the proposal, states could apply for waivers from some of the obligations of health reform, including the individual mandate, the employer penalty for not providing coverage, the standards for a basic health insurance policy and the structure of the health insurance exchange, AIS Health Reform Week reports. States would have to show that their options would cover as many citizens and coverage would have to be as comprehensive and affordable as required by the reform law.

Under the proposal, conservatively-inclined states could try more market-based models, while more liberal states that don't find the reform bold enough could try a public option, Wyden said.

One industry observer, Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard's Kennedy School, said the bill is peripheral to the Republican leadership's attempt to undo the healthcare reform. "They have bigger fish to fry than giving states some flexibility," he said.

To learn more:
- read the Health Reform Week story
- here's the Washington Post story