At the National Governors Association, President Obama just threw his weight behind a bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate to allow states to innovate with health reform, including adopting a public insurance system or single payer health care system by 2013 instead of 2017.
The governors embraced the state innovations waiver proposal, since conservative states want to weed back the federal health reform, and states like California might like to push ahead with public insurance options or single payer health care systems.
The idea is to let states meet federal targets anyway they want to, rather than how the federal government prescribes, by 2013 rather than the current 2017 deadline.
This is one of Obama's only moves left, and a smart one. It gives progressive reformers in California and elsewhere the ability to move forward on ambitious reform plans that can pass at the ballot box in 24 states but would never get the time of day in Washington.
Facing strong legal challenges to the individual mandate, Obama did the right thing by offering flexibility to states to meet targets for access and benefits in the Affordable Care Act. He took a page from longtime labor leader Joe Hill: "Don't Mourn, Organize." He's giving those of us who favor a public insurance option to the private insurance market an opportunity to move our states forward. We better take Joe Hill's advice too and start organizing.
In my book, The Progressive's Guide To Raising Hell, I point out how the initiative process in 24 states and the District of Columbia are the best hope to get the type of health insurance reform that Obama promised in 2008. Today's announcement, if Republicans in Congress bite, lets us act on ambitious reform via ballot measure before 2014, the date mandatory insurance is set to take effect. Game on.