White House Gives States More Say on Health Law Proposal would let them determine 'essential benefits' By John Johnson, Newser Staff Posted Dec 17, 2011 8:00 AM CST 12 comments Comments Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a file photo. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File) (Newser) – In a potentially big shift, the White House is poised to give states much more flexibility on how to implement a key part of health care reform. Under a proposal outlined by health chief Kathleen Sebelius, the federal government would largely let states determine what "essential health benefits" would be offered to residents and businesses come 2014. The New York Times calls it a "major surprise," and NPR says it "may or may not be a punt." The idea apparently is to undercut a central Republican criticism of the health care law— that it would impose a one-size-fits-all set of rules that would be a bureaucratic nightmare in individual states. The feds would still set up broad categories of packages but let states choose the best options, explains AP. The move seems to have ticked off both opponents and proponents of the law, notes the Washington Post.