by Damon Boughamer
Public Radio Capitol News, serving Pennsylvania
Harrisburg, Penna. (PRCN, 9 April 2007) – As lawmakers return to Harrisburg for spring and summer work, the Rendell administration continues to talk up its vision for near-universal health care coverage.
National experts are watching to see what states do in this policy area.
From Massachusetts and Vermont to New York and California, states are examining what one expert calls the "three A's" – access, affordability and adequacy.
Conceptual discussions prevail in some places while implementation is under way in others.
Ed Haislmaier is a health policy expert at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.
He says it's no surprise that states are taking on health care, given federal inaction and the high stakes.
"It doesn't matter if you're the governor or one of the governor's appointees or a legislator. It doesn't matter, pretty much, what state you're in. And it doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or a liberal or a conservative. You've got a state budget that, in most cases, you have to balance. And it's got three things in it: health spending, education spending and everything else. And the first one is eating the other two," Haislmaier says.
The Kaiser Family Foundation is hosting a series of state-centric health care discussions at www.kaiserfoundation.org/healthcast.
Rendell's "Prescription for Pennsylvania" includes a statewide indoor smoking ban, a higher cigarette tax, new taxes on cigars and smokeless tobacco and a three-percent payroll assessment for companies that don't offer insurance.