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State lawmakers taking their own approach to health care reform

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Chris Merkel
Recession could lead tens of millions to lose health insurance
Recession could lead tens of millions to lose health insurance

While the national health care picture remains rather unclear going forward, lawmakers in a number of states are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to providing residents with legal protections. Each of these efforts varies based on constituent needs and other factors, but the broad trend highlights just how much importance legislators place on health care reform.

For instance, state lawmakers in Oregon recently approved a bill that mandates health care as a human right within its borders, according to a report from ABC News. The law is the first of its kind in the nation, and after passing the state's House of Representatives, it moved on to the Senate. If approved as expected, it would put the question up for vote in November's election as a constitutional amendment.

The language of the proposal all but guarantees Oregon would try to set up its own universal health care program, if approved by voters, the report said. Similar legislation is also being considered in Maryland.

"Some states have an extensive history of considering universal health coverage, going back 15 to 20 or more years," Richard Cauchi of the National Conference of State Legislatures told ABC News. "However, no such binding ballot question language has been passed and added to a state constitution."

Health care laws may soon change dramatically nationwide.Health care laws may soon change dramatically nationwide.

Efforts in Wisconsin
Meanwhile, a state representative in Wisconsin recently introduced a raft of health care bills to the state legislature, intended to make care more equitable and affordable, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Included in these was a bill that would require care providers to give patients itemized, plain-language bills to help them better understand their costs.

In addition, the bills seek to make it more difficult for care providers to report medical debt to credit agencies, and limit the cost of emergency care for low-income patients who don't have insurance, the report said. Furthermore, they would require the state's insurance commissioner to ensure all health insurance sold in the state has adequate networks of care providers available.

California cracks down
A different kind of health care effort is underway in California, where the state's insurance commissioner is now investigating one of the nation's largest health insurance companies, according to CNN. This was prompted by a former executive at the company testifying under oath that it often didn't even consider medical records when making decisions about whether treatments were covered.

"If the health insurer is making decisions to deny coverage without a physician actually ever reviewing medical records, that's of significant concern to me as insurance commissioner in California - and potentially a violation of law," California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones told CNN.

As state legislators and agencies across the country continue to reshape the health care landscape on their own, it's vital for insurers to keep close tabs on all these machinations. Having the ability to effectively navigate regulatory waters is vital to successful business operations going forward.



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