Pennsylvania Health Exchange to be Run by Feds

Gov. Corbett joins 19 other Republican governors who chose to leave the responsibility of running new online insurance marketplaces to the federal government.
by | December 13, 2012

Gov. Corbett has opted against creating a state-based health-insurance exchange to serve roughly one million uninsured Pennsylvanians, small businesses, and others who will be eligible for coverage under the signature piece of the Affordable Care Act.

In doing so, Corbett joined 19 other Republican governors who chose to leave to the federal government the responsibility of running the new online insurance marketplace, designed to provide affordable health coverage for all Americans.

Corbett said federal officials did not until this week begin to provide answers to his questions about the "costs, impacts, and flexibility," and without those answers, he said, he could not make an informed decision.

"Health-care reform is too important to be achieved through haphazard planning," Corbett said in a statement. "Pennsylvania taxpayers and businesses deserve more."

Corbett added, "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."

The news regarding the controversial program known as Obamacare was met with partisan reaction from Republicans and Democrats.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that mounted a national campaign against the program, scooped the governor, issuing a laudatory statement Wednesday afternoon before Corbett publicly announced his decision.

Jennifer Stefano, the group's Pennsylvania director, said that while the federal government is providing start-up costs, those costs would fall to the states in 2015 and after.

"Let the burden of responsibility fall with those who created it," Stefano said.

U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), a possible Corbett challenger in the 2014 governor's race, denounced his decision as a "failure of leadership and vision."

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, which represents 250 medical facilities, said Wednesday that it was "disappointed that the state will not be taking the lead on an important initiative to provide access to affordable health-care coverage for low-income individuals and families."

Corbett, who as Pennsylvania attorney general sued to block the federal health-care legislation, said the state-based exchange option can be reevaluated in future years.

For now, the expected Pennsylvania consumers of the program -- largely low-income uninsured, the underinsured, and small businesses -- will rely on the exchange created by the federal government to choose their insurer.

Under the health-care law, all states are to have exchanges in place beginning Jan. 1 in order to prepare for open enrollment, which begins in November. The exchanges will provide one-stop health-insurance shopping for individual consumers and small businesses.

The exchanges will allow low-income individuals to determine whether they will qualify for Medicaid coverage and allow middle-income people to purchase private insurance plans, for which they may receive federal assistance help to cover their premiums.

States were given three options: to run their own exchange, run theirs in partnership with the federal government, or rely on the federal government to operate their exchange.

Sixteen states plus the District of Columbia have set up their own exchanges, while eight states have created state-federal partnerships. Nineteen other states, including New Jersey, decided to leave the operation of the exchanges up to the federal government.

In his decision last week, Gov. Christie also cited a lack of answers to questions from the federal government as his rationale for declining the state-run option.

(c)2012 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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