Cor­bett: State will not set up own in­surance ex­change

North Penn Life - - Datebook - By Linda Finarelli lfinarelli@mont­gomerynews .com

Penn­syl­va­nia will not be set­ting up a state health in­surance ex­change, but will de­fer to the fed­eral government to op­er­ate the ex­change un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act.

In a state­ment is­sued Wed­nes­day, Gov. Tom Cor­bett said his de­ci­sion not to set up a state-based ex­change was due to the fact that his ad­min­is­tra­tion has not re­ceived an­swers to ques­tions from the fed­eral government posed over the last two years “to help de­ter­mine costs, im­pacts and flex­i­bil­ity in or­der to in­form our de­ci­sions.”

In a Dec. 12 let­ter to U.S. De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius, Cor­bett wrote, “Although the re­cent publi­ca­tion of pro­posed reg­u­la­tions pro­vided some guid­ance, even you have ad­mit­ted th­ese rules are not fi­nal. And your an­swers this week — less than five days from the dead­line for a de­ci­sion for a state-based ex­change — while greatly ap­pre­ci­ated, still re­quire sig­nif­i­cant re­view along with the reg­u­la­tions.”

For th­ese rea­sons, Cor­bett said in the state­ment, “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.”

In his let­ter, Cor­bett said he had “strong con­cerns” that the state “would end up shoul­der­ing all of the costs [of the ex­change] by 2015, but have no author­ity to gov­ern the pro­gram,” and that three were “too many un­knowns.”

“We must work to­gether to pro­vide more health care ac­cess,” he wrote, but noted con­cern over the costs of Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion in the state, which he said “could reach more than $4 bil­lion in state-only costs over the next eight years,” lead­ing to sub­stan­tial tax in­creases.

In a state­ment is­sued fol­low­ing Cor­bett’s an­nounce- ment, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-13, crit­i­cized the gov­er­nor’s de­ci­sion, call­ing it “a lost op­por­tu­nity … to demon­strate lead­er­ship and in­no­va­tion in af­ford­abil­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity in the in­surance mar­ket­place.”

“Gov. Cor­bett’s de­ci­sion not to ac­cept the author­ity to de­velop and op­er­ate a state ‘ex­change’ mar­ket­place of pri­vate health cov­er­age for in­di­vid­u­als and small busi­nesses is a fail­ure of lead­er­ship and vi­sion,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz, who is ru­mored to be plan­ning a run for gov­er­nor in two years, noted in the state­ment her ef­forts as a state se­na­tor to cre­ate Penn­syl­va­nia’s Chil­dren’s Health In­surance Pro­gram, which she said was one of the first in the coun­try and later used as a model for fed­eral ef­forts to of­fer af­ford­able in­surance cov­er­age for 11 mil­lion chil­dren na­tion­wide, and her ef­fort as a con­gress­woman to ex­pand that cov­er­age at the fed­eral level. She crit­i­cized Cor­bett for end­ing the AdultBa­sic pro­gram — started with money from the to­bacco in­dus­try set­tle­ment to of­fer cov­er­age “to thou­sands of lower in­come mid­dle class adults in Penn­syl­va­nia” — by “us­ing the funds to cover bud­get short­falls, leav­ing many in Penn­syl­va­nia unin­sured.”

Ac­knowl­edg­ing “there are unan­swered ques­tions, as there are with all new ven­tures, the gov­er­nor’s de­ci­sion demon­strates the low pri­or­ity he has given to the se­ri­ous chal­lenge of af­ford­able, ac­ces­si­ble health cov­er­age for our ci­ti­zens,” Schwartz said.

“The fed­eral government will now take the re­spon­si­bil­ity to es­tab­lish an ex­change for Penn­syl­va­nia so that our res­i­dents will have ac­cess to af­ford­able, mean­ing­ful cov­er­age,” she said.

Penn­syl­va­nia is one of 28 states that have de­cided to have the fed­eral government op­er­ate their state’s ex­change, ac­cord­ing to the gov­er­nor’s state­ment. The de­ci­sion to es­tab­lish a state-based ex­change can be re-eval­u­ated each year, it says.

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