President Barack Obama threw a bone to governors Monday by announcing his support for a proposal to give states more flexibility in rolling out the health care overhaul — a move that is already being chalked up as a gimmick by some Senate Republicans.
During remarks at a White House event for the National Governors Association, Obama said a bill that would allow states to apply for waivers from the health care law in 2014 instead of 2017 is “a reasonable proposal.” The measure was proposed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
The change would “give you flexibility more quickly, while still guaranteeing the American people reform,” the president said. “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.
“I’ve said before, I don’t believe that any single party has a monopoly on good ideas,” he added. “And I will go to bat for whatever works, no matter who or where it comes from.”
Obama’s move is likely to win at least some support from governors struggling with their budgets and the health care law’s mandates. It also highlights that the president is easing back into campaign mode; he told the group that his views on giving states flexibility on health care are similar to those of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a potential GOP rival in the 2012 presidential race.
“I agree with Mitt Romney, who recently said he’s proud of what he accomplished on health care in Massachusetts and supports giving states the power to determine their own health care solutions,” Obama said. “He’s right. Alabama is not going to have exactly the same needs as Massachusetts or California or North Dakota.”
But Sen. Orrin Hatch called Obama’s move “a stunt” and said there is no flexibility for states under the $2.6 trillion law that was enacted last year, which he and other conservatives say is the underlying problem.
“State flexibility under ObamaCare does not exist. Not now, not five years from now, not 10 years from now,” the Utah Republican said in a statement. “Telling states that so long as they meet the law’s budget-busting, onerous requirements, they can opt out is not flexibility. Just ask the nation’s governors who are seeking real relief from the costs and mandates that are being imposed on them.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.