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Feb. 28, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. President Obama told a gathering of the National Governors Association today that he would support proposed changes to the federal health reform law that would give states more flexibility sooner to meet some of the Affordable Care Act's broad goals of expanded and affordable coverage.
And U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius followed that up with a blog post on the White House website, saying she was eager to work with states that want to meet the law's challenges in their own ways.
"If your state can create a plan that covers as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act does – without increasing the deficit – you can implement that plan, and we’ll work with you to do it," Obama told the governors. "I’ve said before, I don’t believe that either party holds a monopoly on good ideas. And I will go to bat for whatever works, no matter who or where it comes from."
Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas and most of the nation's other Republican governors have been vocal opponents of the health reform law. More than half the states have joined legal challenges to the law. And complaints about state Medicaid costs figured prominently during the association's meetings this weekend.
But Brownback told the Washington Post that while the president's offer would allow more flexibility, it wasn't enough to end his overall objection to the reform law.
"This offers a little bit of flexibility, which I think is a positive thing," Brownback said, "but it doesn't change the overall objection to the bill."
Brownback said he and others who are challenging the law in court would "implement what we're required to do," but continue to fight it.
"I want the maximum flexibility," Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, also a Republican, told the Post. "Give me as a state the opportunity to determine more about the eligibility and benefits, and we'll be glad to run that program. That's the key for us."
Obama also asked the governors to form a bipartisan group to work with Sebelius on ways to reduce Medicaid costs while covering the same number of people.
The president's remarks came in the form of an endorsement for a bill in Congress offered by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat; Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, a Republican, and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, that would accelerate to 2014 instead of 2017 a provision in the Affordable Care Act that would allow states that meet the law's broad goals of coverage and affordability to essentially opt out of many of the reform act's major provisions.
“I am aware that I have not yet convinced everybody here to be a member of the Affordable Care Act fan club," Obama said. "I am not open to refighting the battles of the last two years. I am willing to work with anyone in this room, Democrat or Republican, governors or members of Congress to make this law even better.”