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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Federalism, Health, and Education

The law will still make some benefits available everywhere. Starting next year, all insurance plans will be prohibited from rejecting consumers who are sick. Plans cannot put annual or lifetime limits on what they cover. For the first time, all plans will have to provide a standardized set of health benefits.
And millions of low- and moderate-income Americans will qualify for government subsidies to help them buy health insurance if they cannot get coverage through their employers.
The new law will not make health coverage available to all Americans, however.
About half of the states, most with Republican leadership, have rejected federal aid to expand their government Medicaid programs next year, saying it costs too much and imposes too many regulations. That means as many as 5 million of the poorest residents in these states will still not be able to get coverage next year. (Several states are still debating whether to expand Medicaid.)
At the same time, 34 states have elected not to set up new insurance marketplaces, websites where consumers who don't get health benefits at work and don't qualify for Medicaid can shop for standardized health insurance plans.
In those states, the Obama administration will run the marketplaces. Consumers there will still be able to shop online for insurance plans. And Obama administration officials have pledged to help shoppers. But with the federal government stretched thin, the administration had hoped states would provide consumers with an added layer of protection.
The Times also reports on education:
California lawmakers pushed ahead Tuesday with a new state testing plan despite a threat by the Obama administration to withhold federal education funds unless substantial changes were made.

The state Senate approved the overhaul on a 25-7 vote, with Democrats overwhelmingly in support.
AB 484 would end the paper-and-pencil testing system used since 1999. In its place would be computerized tests based on new Common Core learning goals approved by 45 states.
With the new test entering a trial period, there would be no student or school scores released for 2014. The bill could permit a further postponement of scores, if needed, for 2015.
The U.S. Department of Education asserted this week that the state could have continued the current testing regime for most students until results could be provided by the new test.
But a majority of state senators were unmoved.