"Lawmakers in at least two states, California and Missouri, have introduced legislation for the current session to create government-backed coverage for state residents," The Wall Street Journal reports. "In others, including Virginia and New Jersey, legislators are hoping to tweak existing state programs to include more people. In 11 states, lawmakers have proposed bills for this year aimed at improving access to health care, said the National Conference of State Legislatures." Democrat Peggy Welch, head of the health committee for the group, "said states had hit the 'pause button' on many health issues, but they may soon be 'back for the states to wrestle with.'" With state budgets struggling to make ends meet, however, "many states are actually cutting health programs" (Mathews, 2/2).
Contra Costa Times reports on the state Democrats who are pushing forward single-payer health care legislation in California. "Republicans think it's a great political cudgel for them to attack Democrats with in the wake of congressional health care reform setbacks. So, why are legislative Democrats pushing forward with single-payer health care legislation? It's to lay the foundation for what could be an epic ballot battle two or four years from now, said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, the author of Senate Bill 810, which was approved this week by the Senate" (Harmon, 1/31).
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports on a measure passed Monday by Virginia's Democratic-controlled state Senate "that would make it illegal to require individuals to purchase health insurance, a direct challenge to the party's efforts in Washington to reform health care. The bills, a top priority of Virginia's 'tea party' movement, were approved 23 to 17 as five Democrats who represent swing areas of the state joined all 18 Republicans in the chamber in backing the legislation. ... The votes also suggest that Democrats on the state level fear that supporting health-care reform could be politically damaging, and their action could put pressure on members of the state's congressional delegation who have been behind the effort" (Helderman, 2/2).