- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2015

A leading Democratic senator asked the administration Thursday to update him on its efforts to implement a piece of Obamacare that allows states to waive parts of the law in 2017 if they find ways to outdo the federal health law in terms of the affordability and quality of coverage and how many people get insured.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said he drafted the tool, formally known as a Section 1332 waiver, to build on the Affordable Care Act’s vision, and not so states can use it as an off-ramp from the 2010 law.

The innovation waivers “should be seen as a tool for states to meet or surpass the progress made by the ACA, not as an opportunity to deconstruct the law, remove protections or make it harder for Americans to get affordable, qualify health coverage,” Mr. Wyden wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

The senator said the provision will allow states to “take the reins” and provide coverage that best meets their constituents’ unique needs and characteristics.

Though it cannot be implemented until the 2017 plan year, some Republican analysts see the waiver program as a litmus test for President Obama’s willingness to permit changes to his signature overhaul before he leaves the White House in little over a year.

Mr. Wyden asked HHS to tell him how they plan to protect consumers under the program, particularly Medicaid recipients who are entitled to certain benefits and protections under separate law, and what they’re doing to ensure the waiver is “not used to undermine the ACA in the future.”

“The law must be used to move forward, not back,” he wrote.

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