Saturday, January 27, 2007

Universal coverage - State Universal Coverage Plans May be Illegal

Periodically I will bring you up to date on the credibility of my January 11 blog predictions for 2007.

Prediction #2 for 2007

“The Universal Health Care movement will take shallow roots in states at the edge of the continent – California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont.”

Prediction Progress

When I used the term “shallow roots,” I may have been prescient. According to a January 23 Wall Street Journal editorial, “Illegal Health Care,” California and Massachusetts “pay or play” plans may be illegal. The WSJ editors base this illegality on a ruling by Judge J. Frederick Motz of the Fourth Circuit of Appeals, who ruled that Maryland’s Law forcing Wal-Mart to” pay” 8% of its payroll for health benefits if it were going to “play” as a Maryland business was illegal.

The judge ruled that the “Wal-Mart tax” violated Erisa, the federal law permitting multi-state employers to maintain nationwide benefits and uniform administration from state-to-state. The Journal editorializes, ”We’re all for state policy experiments, but these ballyhooed health care reforms are policy blunders that won’t stand scrutiny in court, much less in the marketplace.”

We shall see. Three of the Democratic candidates for President – John Edwards, Barak Osama, and Hilliary Clinton – don’t share the Journal’s views. All have put their variations of universal coverage on the table (Mike Dorning, “Healthcare coverage gains political steam: candidate embrace universal coverage,” Chicago Tribune, January 26, 2007). Only one thing is for sure. No state or the nation as a whole can afford first-dollar universal coverage. Somebody, probably everybody, will have “to pay to play” the universal game.

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