Health Care

Western Progress urges the Federal Government to step up to the plate. Many advocates
believe the ultimate answer will be universal health care. In the meantime, Senators Russ
Feingold and Lindsey Graham have re-introduced the Reform Health Care Now Act and
are working to reintroduce the State-Based Health Care Reform Act , which would help
states determine the best way to extend health care coverage to all their citizens.

And in fact, states seem far more willing to tackle this crucial issue than do Washington
lawmakers. Many states are already looking to provide extended coverage to their
residents. Massachusetts got a lot of press when it passed legislation last year requiring
all residents to be insured. But a number of other states have also passed health care
reform measures. And scores of other state legislatures are taking up such action.

In our region, Montana is considering a bill to create a group tasked with designing a
universal health care system for Montana. Even a politically conservative Colorado
doctor was eager to testify on its behalf after seeing the difficulties people in rural areas
face every day when they try to get health care.

This year, the New Mexico legislature is considering a proposal to raise income
eligibility from 200% of the poverty line to 300% for the State Coverage Initiative which
combines public and private dollars to offer a basic level of services to eligible residents.
Plus, a New Mexico commission will compare the estimated costs and effectiveness of
three different proposals to achieve universal access in the state, from a single-payer
system to a public/private model that builds on employer-based coverage.

But the direction is not always progressive. The Arizona legislature is considering action
that would actually dismantle an excellent and economically-sound state-administered
insurance program to expand coverage to small businesses that cannot otherwise afford to
protect their workers. Health care advocates must stay alert to prevent back-sliding on
progressive solutions.

The Commonwealth Fund has excellent background on the Arizona Healthcare Group
that stands in danger today and the New Mexico State Coverage Insurance Program . Also
read about the CoverColorado program that provides insurance to people with pre-
existing conditions. Colorado estimates that its "advanced care management" initiative—
an integration of disease-management and care management interventions for its high-
risk pool enrollees—generated $2.3 million in direct savings to the state from May 2002
to September 2003. Utah's Premium Partnership for Health Insurance helps make health
insurance more affordable for working individuals and families who do not currently
have health insurance.

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