State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Dems pen last letter before health care exchange deadline

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 11, 2012 3:24 PM

State Senate Democrats are making one last, largely symbolic effort to get the governor to put Pennsylvania’s health care exchange firmly in state regulators’ hands.

Gov. Corbett’s decision is due Friday, but so far, he’s hinted that he’s inclined to opt out of a state-run exchange, and have the federal government run the clearinghouse for health care coverage, which is required to be up and running by 2014.

“It seems to me that the governor has to reach acceptance that Obamacare is not going to be repealed. It may be improved but it’s not going to be repealed and so this is happening,” said Sen. Mike Stack of Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

Stack added that making the exchange state-run would heed the advice of insurers and health care providers. But Corbett has said even if the exchange isn’t run by the state from the outset, he can always opt to switch from a federally-run exchange to one that is overseen by the commonwealth.

“I think it’s better to have that state control at the earliest point in time but, yes, under Governor Corbett’s perceived plan right now, it appears he’s going to wait until after the deadline and allow the federal government to set up an exchange,” said Stack.

The state has accepted a $33 million federal grant to cover the costs of planning and researching a health care exchange. In 2011, Michael Consedine, the state’s insurance commissioner, said he believed the state “would do a much better job of regulating insurance here in Pennsylvania than the federal government would do.”

Roseanne Placey, a spokeswoman for the state Insurance Department said that’s still true.

“As we’ve done our research and spoken to stakeholders, it’s clear a state-run exchange would be best, if – there’s a big if here – if we had the flexibility to build it in a cost-effective and flexible manner,” said Placey. “But to this point that’s unclear, given what [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] has offered us.”

Placey said HHS only began answering the state’s questions about the health care exchange this week.

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