State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Corbett: health care exchange will be in feds' hands

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 12, 2012 1:43 PM
Thumbnail image for Tom-Corbett-1.jpg

Updated Dec. 12, 4:15 p.m. to include comments from Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine.

Gov. Corbett says he’ll opt for a federally-run health care exchange. The announcement comes two days before the Friday deadline states have to decide whether they’ll have the marketplaces regulated by the federal government, their own state, or a joint federal-state partnership.

In a written statement provided below, the governor said he’s received too few details from the federal government about how the exchanges would need to be managed.

“It would be irresponsible to put Pennsylvanians on the hook for an unknown amount of money to operate a system under rules that have not been fully written,” said Corbett in a statement released this afternoon.

But Corbett said he’s still mulling whether or not he’ll go along with another part of the federal Affordable Care Act – Medicaid expansion.

Democratic lawmakers have suggested opting out of a state-based exchange is a way for the governor to thumb his nose at the Affordable Care Act.

“We’re aware that there are criticisms that this was a politically motivated decision,” said the state’s Insurance Commissioner, Michael Consedine. “ I can tell you, after working on it and struggling with it and going pretty far down the road based on a state-based exchange, that it wasn’t a political decision.”

Consedine said “in a perfect world,” he would opt for a state-run exchange, based on talks with stakeholders and research. Those efforts, said Consedine, were funded by a few federal grants totaling no more than $5 million. The state has also accepted a $33 million federal grant to pay for the planning of a state-based exchange. Consedine said Pennsylvania hasn’t “spent a penny” of the grant, but will now see if the grant money can be used to offset any costs of the federally-run exchange.

The state could switch to a state-run exchange as early as January 2015. The exchanges, like online marketplaces for buying health care, are required to be operational by January 2014.

Here’s the full release:

Governor Corbett Announces State-Based Insurance Exchange Decision

Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett today released the following statement, along with a letter to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, regarding the state’s decision on the establishment of a state-based health insurance exchange:

“For two years my administration has been engaged in careful planning around the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, continually seeking guidance from the federal government. Throughout this time, we’ve asked HHS questions to help determine costs, impacts and flexibility in order to inform our decisions.

Until this week, less than five days before the deadline for a state-based exchange decision and blueprint, we received little acknowledgement of those questions. EvenHHS Secretary Sebelius recently admitted on a call with governors that the regulations released a few weeks ago were not final and that more drafts are to be expected.

Healthcare reform is too important to be achieved through haphazard planning. Pennsylvania taxpayers and businesses deserve more. They deserve informed decision making and a strong plan that responsibly uses taxpayer dollars.

Therefore, I have decided not to pursue a state-based health insurance exchange at this time. It would be irresponsible to put Pennsylvanians on the hook for an unknown amount of money to operate a system under rules that have not been fully written.

However, we will continue to seek guidance from HHS on the costs, impacts and flexibility involved in the different options for Medicaid expansion.

We must work together on solutions that provide greater access to high quality and more affordable health care coverage for Pennsylvanians.”
Pennsylvania is one of 28 states that has declared it will allow the federal government to operate its exchange. By law, the decision to establish a state-based exchange can be re-evaluated by states each year.

The exchange decision letter to HHS, along with three previous letters to HHS from the administration, can be found by clicking on “Affordable Care Act News” on the Pennsylvania Insurance Department’s website at www.insurance.pa.gov.

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