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MA Health Reform Influences Ohio Gov's Race

MA Health Reform Influences Ohio Gov's Race

August 28, 2006

It's not hard to see the influence the MA health reform law is having in the Ohio gubernatorial campaign. Just check out the editorial from Sunday's Akron Beacon Journal.

Democratic Candidate (and Congressman) Ted Strickland proposes an Ohio Healthcare Exchange, to bring together small businesses and private insurers to design low-cost health-care packages that would be available to all uninsured Ohioans. Participation would be voluntary. Low-income families earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level would get help paying the premiums. The exchange, costing $550 million over two years, would be paid by employer and individual contributions and state funds that now assist programs for the uninsured. State money would be used to draw federal matching funds.

Republican Candidate (and Sect. of State) Ken Blackwell proposes a new Buckeye Health Plan, featuring a private insurance market offering approved, low-cost plans. It requires everyone to buy some form of health coverage, the program financed by employer contributions, individual contributions with pretax dollars and existing state funds. Blackwell would create a Buckeye Health Connection to facilitate activities in the new insurance market.

The editorial notes:

Both plans reveal, overtly and otherwise, the influence of the Massachusetts model, policymakers collaborating with private insurers and small business to create a market for the uninsured, pooling private and available public funding sources to cover the cost. Neither plan breaks new imaginative ground. The challenge, as always, lies in the details, in attracting private insurers to offer decent coverage at costs the working poor can afford.

We're not wild about imposing an individual mandate without significant insurance market protections that don't exist now in Ohio. We think the level of subsidies proposed is way too low, and that the Blackwell plan would punish a lot of folks who are legitimately priced out of decent coverage today. Still...

What's great is to see gubernatorial candidates slugging it out over how best to expand affordable coverage to the uninsured. Ohio has never been a state in the lead on health care access reform. 1.2 million uninsured. This level of attention and competition in a gubernatorial campaign raises the stakes and prospects for Ohio to play a significant role in the health reform conversation over the next two years.

Welcome to the fray.

John McDonough