Letter to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Chair, Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Senator Michael B. Enzi, Ranking Member, Committee...

Letter

By:  Lindsey Graham Tom Price Jeff Bingaman Russ Feingold George Voinovich Tammy Baldwin
Date: Oct. 15, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

Letter to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Chair, Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Senator Michael B. Enzi, Ranking Member, Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Representative John D. Dingell, Chair, Committee on Energy and Commerce, Representative Joe Barton, Ranking Member, Committee on Energy and Commerce,
Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Chair, Committee on Rules,
Representative David Dreier, Ranking Member, Committee on Rules

BIPARTISAN COALITION PUSHES FOR STATE-BASED HEALTH CARE

Senators and Representatives Push State-Based Approach to Health Care Coverage as Part of the Long Term Solution to Insuring All Americans

A bipartisan coalition of senators and representatives is pushing Congress to endorse a state-based approach to ensuring all Americans receive quality health care coverage. In a letter to the congressional committees that oversee health care, four senators and two representatives are encouraging the committees' leadership to consider state-based approaches as part of the long term solution to providing high-quality, effective, and efficient health care to all Americans. The coalition consists of Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), authors of the State-Based Health Care Reform Act (S.1169), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and George Voinovich (R-OH), authors of the Health Partnership Act (S.325) and Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Tom Price (R-GA), authors of the Partnership Through Creative Federalism Act (H.R. 506). The state-based approach is strongly supported by groups including the Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institution.

"Many states have already begun to implement reforms on their own, and we believe that encouraging these innovative experiments could ultimately lead to a model or models for nation-wide change," the members of Congress wrote. "Our approaches will harness the competition of ideas and the momentum being generated on the state level to advance possible solutions and create hard data from which to move forward. We encourage you to consider these approaches as part of the long term solution to providing high-quality, effective, and efficient health care to all Americans."

"This bipartisan coalition is a welcome and refreshing development in the quest to enable all Americans to obtain health coverage. The coalition's state-led approach recognizes three realities about reform and about increasing coverage. First, states are already in the lead and developing innovative proposals. Washington needs to actively encourage this. Second, we simply don't know what the best approach is for the nation as a whole -- or even if there is one answer that would work everywhere. So we need to encourage experimentation to find the best answer, or the best set of answers for difference state or regions, within an agreed set of national goals and shared American values. And third, Washington is in partisan gridlock on health. We need to break out of that by recognizing that it is better for many rival ideas to be tried somewhere than for Congress to continue trying unsuccessfully to apply one idea everywhere," said Stuart Butler, Vice-President, The Heritage Foundation.

"Many of us yearn for concerted national action to extend health insurance to all Americans. Alas, consensus on how to do it remains elusive. Right now, however, states are abloom with legislative proposals to cover the uninsured. The best hope--right now!--for extending coverage is for the federal government to support those state efforts--with regulatory flexibility and financial support. How different, and more promising, will be the debate on national reform if several states have shown the way," said Henry Aaron, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The text of the letter is below.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Chair
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
428 Senate Dirksen Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Michael B. Enzi, Ranking Member
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
428 Senate Dirksen Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Representative John D. Dingell, Chair
Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Representative Joe Barton, Ranking Member
Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Chair
Committee on Rules
H-312 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Representative David Dreier, Ranking Member
Committee on Rules
H-312 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:

We write today with bipartisan support for state-based health care coverage initiatives designed to bring high-quality care to the United States' uninsured population. We have each introduced legislation that we feel would advance this cause and would like these ideas to be included in the debate as your committees move forward to find a solution to the current problems facing health care delivery in the United States.

Many states have already begun to implement reforms on their own, and we believe that encouraging these innovative experiments could ultimately lead to a model or models for nation-wide change. While we currently lack a consensus approach to ensure all Americans have access to adequate health services, a state-based model allows experimentation with both conservative and progressive solutions that could eventually be widely applied. Our approach will allow Congress to gather data on what works at the state level and what level of change Americans are willing to accept. We expect some states to experiment with single-payer coverage while others will pursue consumer-driven approaches such as health savings accounts. After all, what works for one state may not be politically or economically feasible for another.

Our approaches will harness the competition of ideas and the momentum being generated on the state level to advance possible solutions and create hard data from which to move forward. We encourage you to consider these approaches as part of the long term solution to providing high-quality, effective, and efficient health care to all Americans. We stand ready to assist you in the achievement of that goal. Please do not hesitate to call on us.

Sincerely,

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Senator George Voinovich (R-OH)
Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Representative Tom Price (R-GA)