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Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Scott Brown (R-MA) are getting a good bit of media play for their alliance on an amendment to President Obama’s health care law advanced in the name of state innovation. The Washington Post is gushing over the two moderates, who have that special little something in their relationship which is positively guaranteed to attract old media praise: pointless bipartisanship.
In this case, absent from the WaPo profile is any real description of what Wyden-Brown’s proposal would actually do. The attempts by reporter Jason Horowitz to obtain an answer to this question are rather amusing:
Brown’s office declined to make him available to discuss his own bill. On a recent afternoon, after he had passionately declared to a near-empty Senate chamber that “I worked with the senator from Oregon and other senators to find common-sense solutions,” Brown walked off the floor and to the elevator bank, where, in response to a reporter’s question, he explained the legislation thusly.
“Well, you know I think the health-care bill is deeply flawed,” Brown said, stone-faced, as aides quickly converged around him. “I would like to see it repealed, but for my state and other states like it, who want to participate and do things in their own states, like we’ve done in Massachusetts, it’s a good, bipartisan, common-sense solution.”
His aides ushered him toward an opening elevator. Brown stepped in and denied a reporter extra time to talk about his legislation. “I don’t really have anything more to say about it,” he said. As the doors slid shut, he shrugged off the odd-couple suggestion by saying, “I treat every senator equally.”
Brown’s headed for the elevator because he likely knows this amendment is exists as a way to get reporters to swoon, not actually improving policy. As I’ve noted at The Oregonian, all that Wyden-Brown does is allow states greater flexibility in timing, giving them the freedom to opt out of the individual mandate sooner than they can under the original legislation (2014 instead of 2017). But it doesn’t change the steep requirements necessary to receive that waiver — requirements which include proving to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that just as many or more people will purchase or receive insurance under their plan as would be covered under the mandates.
Yes, you read that right: in order to get a waiver from the individual mandate, states must prove that as many or a greater number of people will purchase insurance as would under a law requiring them to purchase insurance.
If that’s not the definition of a pointless nod toward state innovation, I don’t know what is.