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States take their own path for dealing with health insurance changes

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Josh Hammerquist
Recession could lead tens of millions to lose health insurance
Recession could lead tens of millions to lose health insurance

Across the U.S., most people are dealing with changing conditions that might impact their lives if Congress passes changes to federal health care laws. To that end, a number of states are now pushing their own legislation that would potentially supersede any rules that come with a rollback of federal rules, providing residents - on a state-by-state basis - with additional protections that go above and beyond the national standard.

For instance, in Texas, the state's House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would require insurers to provide mental health coverage equal to physical health insurance protection, according to the Houston Chronicle. The bill received broad bipartisan support, with only 12 of 122 state Representatives opposing it. Meanwhile, a companion bill is working its way through the Texas state Senate.

In addition to adding that protection, the bill would also create an ombudsman role at the Texas Department of Insurance to resolve any issues that arise related to these new requirements.

Lawmakers in Texas are considering big changes to existing health insurance laws.Lawmakers in Texas are considering big changes to existing health insurance laws.

California weighing a big move
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, lawmakers in the state of California are considering a bigger switch: the establishment of a single-payer health insurance plan that would cover every Californian, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The bill has already been introduced into the California state Senate, by Sen. Ricardo Lara, but lawmakers expect this will lead to a protracted battle.

Part of the reason for this is that the single-payer model would effectively work by expanding the state's Medicaid program to cover just about everyone. However, without sufficient funding from the federal government, it probably wouldn't work at all, the report said. And even if the bill finds favor among legislators - far from a certainty at this point - California Governor Jerry Brown has already stated his skepticism that the plan would be effective.

"Where do you get the extra money?" Brown recently asked reporters, according to the newspaper. "This is the whole question. I don't even get. … How do you do that?"

Utah pushing for more children to get insurance
Finally, in Utah a recent report showed that the state had the highest rate of uninsured Hispanic children in the country, prompting its governor to highlight the benefits of enrolling kids in the Child Health Insurance Program even if their parents aren't covered, according to Salt Lake City television station KUTV. As long as children are legal U.S. residents, under 19, and not currently on insurance - and their parents make under certain thresholds depending on their family size - they are eligible for CHIP coverage that provides basic care free of charge.

As the national health care landscape continues to shift, this trend is only like to pick up steam, particularly in states with large populations of uninsured people, or where local economies are particularly strong. It's an issue that many in the insurance industry and beyond should monitor carefully to determine how it will affect them.



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