States Looking at Universal Health Care

State legislative agendas are primed to consider universal heath care options this year that would give access to health care to millions of uninsured Americans. The editors of State Net Capitol Journal predict that at least eight states are poised to introduce universal health care measures.

"The push to find a way to provide medical insurance for some of the estimated 45 million Americans currently without such coverage is not new," said editor Rich Ehisen of Capitol Journal. "When Massachusetts and Vermont passed widely touted universal health care measures in 2006, many observers predicted a number of other states would soon follow suit. Although that did not happen -- nine other states ultimately rejected similar proposals -- ever increasing health care costs and a lack of Congressional action to address the matter at the federal level has several states again primed to take a serious look at developing some form of a universal health care system of their own in 2007."

According to Ehisen, Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, Maryland, Missouri, Montana and California are among the states studying plans. California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his proposed plan in early January. California has more uninsured people than any other state. Some of the proposed plans are similar to the Vermont and Massachusetts programs, which while similar in some ways, also have distinct differences.

The Massachusetts plan mandates that everyone must buy the insurance by July 1, 2007, or risk having most of the premium collected from their annual state income tax return. Employers with more than ten employees must provide health coverage or pay up to $295 a year per employee into a state fund that covers the cost of insuring those workers.

Hopes that the Feds might address the issue have increased with the recent Democratic election wins, but with a slim majority margin and some fiscally conservative Democrats, they may not move on this issue anytime soon and the trend to let the states act will continue. Bills were introduced in Congress last year to encourage the states on health coverage plans and a Congressional commission was formed to examine each of them as they come from the states.

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