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Administration touts reform’s benefits to states

Tue., Nov. 24, 2009

The Obama administration continued its effort to build the case for health care reform with the release of reports detailing the benefits it said states would see should Congress pass the exhaustive legislation.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius introduced the state-specific evaluations of the Senate’s version of reform during a conference call with reporters Monday. The reports, which can be found at, illustrate the administration’s efforts to sell the legislation the Senate began debating over the weekend.

If reform efforts fail, Washington’s uninsured could rise to 1.1 million from 811,000, and the state would continue to pay a portion of the $663 million spent annually on uncompensated care, according to the site. Idaho’s uninsured could rise to 342,000, and the state would continue to pay a portion of the $318 million spent annually in uncompensated care, the report states.

Some governors have expressed concern about the plan’s expansion of Medicaid, which would take effect in 2013. States and the federal government share the cost of Medicaid.

Sebelius said that most governors are supportive of the overhaul and that neither the House nor the Senate want to impose unfunded mandates on the states.

The Senate plan would expand Medicaid eligibility to people earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line and the federal government would pay the cost of expansion for the first three years, according to the Associated Press. The House plan would expand it to those up to 150 percent of poverty, pay for it in 2013 and 2014, and afterward make states pay only 9 percent of Medicaid costs, a considerably lower portion than they do now.

Sebelius said the costs imposed by the uninsured on states and hospitals need to be taken into account when assessing fiscal impact. “To assume that this population is currently free to states is one of the misnomers,” she said.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., expressed concern about the objectivity of the numbers. “What’s missing from the report are the statistics revealing that individuals in Eastern Washington covered by private plans will experience a 53 percent increase in their premiums and small businesses by 36 percent,” she said in the statement.

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