no avatar

Haslam blames feds for delay in health care choice

ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press • Nov 19, 2012 at 10:34 AM

NASHVILLE -- A lack of information from the White House is delaying a decision about whether the state should run its own health insurance exchange under the new federal health care law, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday.

Haslam told reporters that President Barack Obama's administration has refused to address a series of questions about the health insurance marketplaces raised by Republican governors, including whether states would be able to create wellness-based incentives to encourage healthy behavior.

"I think that's a key to healthcare in the country, people taking more responsibility," he said.

Other unresolved questions include whether family members participating in different plans will be covered by the same provider; how the state will be able to avoid being double-charged when seniors transition to Medicare; and if the state will be able to access information stored in the federal database.

"You literally have us saying we want to come sit down and talk about this to ask some of our questions, and get answers," Haslam said. "And their response coming back has been 'there's no need in doing that.' And I don't find that an appropriate response."

The governor acknowledged that compliance with the federal health care law is an emotional issue for Republicans who had hoped either legal or political challenges would derail the plan before it went into effect.

"Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled, the election happened, and we have to be prepared," Haslam said.

States have until Dec. 14 to decide if they or the federal government will run their exchanges. As of last late week, 23 states plus Washington, D.C., were proceeding with their own plans; 15 said they'd defer to the federal government to run their markets; and 12 were still mulling over their options.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, individuals, families and small businesses will be able to buy private coverage through an exchange in their state, with most consumers getting government assistance to pay premiums. The exchanges will also help steer low-income, uninsured people into expanded Medicaid programs in many states.

Haslam's complaints echo those brought up by other Republican governors like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Bob McDonnell of Virginia, who have argued that the Obama administration should release major regulations bottled up for months before they have to make up their minds about a state-run exchange. Some of their main concerns include hidden costs of operating the exchanges and the sheer bureaucratic complexity of the new system.

"The White House has basically ignored that and said no, whether it be a personal request through the secretary of (health), a letter to the president, any number of ways we've said, 'We have some questions, we have some things that need to be answered,'" Haslam said. "And they haven't answered that."

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

The Obama administration has maintained it will not postpone the Jan. 1, 2014, launch date for the law's coverage expansion, and it will go ahead in all 50 states. Open enrollment will begin even sooner, Oct. 1, 2013.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos