Administration Pitches Health Reform Progress in "Red States"
In its latest report on the status of Affordable Care Act (ACA)-mandated health insurance exchanges in the 50 states, the Obama administration is leaning on two surprising proponents to support the idea and suggesting the concept is moving forward faster in the so-called Red States.
The administration released an update last week detailing the creation of what it calls Affordable Insurance Exchanges around the country and highlighted the support in the 1990s of the Heritage Foundation, a respected and influential conservative think-tank. The update also claims the health exchange concept has been embraced by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the past and that states generally opposed to the ACA are adapting to the exchanges faster than other states.
According to the report, health insurance exchanges are designed to provide a “marketplace’ where small businesses and individuals will be able to compare and shop for comprehensive insurance beginning in 2014. States that setup such an exchange receive several rounds of federal government grants to assist in regulating the exchanges. States that fail to create the exchanges will face the prospect of federal government bureaucrats stepping in to do it for them.
The Obama Administration also says that to date, every state in the union has taken some step in establishing an exchange although some have done much more than others. In all, 28 states are well on their way to establishing the exchanges including the District of Columbia. In fact, the report points out that such GOP-heavy states as Nevada, Alabama, Mississippi, all with Republican governors, and others are making significant progress. The irony is that many of these “right-leaning” states are also suing the administration over the constitutionality of ACA. Following is a report on the status of exchanges in five states, according to the government document:
• Nevada – Silver State Health Insurance Exchange was authorized through bipartisan legislation and passed unanimously by both chambers of the Nevada legislature and signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval on June 16, 2011. Its seventeen-member board was appointed on September 23, 2011 and met for the first time last October 26.
• Alabama – Governor Robert Bentley, a physician, issued an Executive order that created the Alabama Health Insurance Exchange Study Commission on June 2, 2011. Alabama then received an Exchange establishment grant of $8.6 million on November 29 from the Department of Health and Human Services. The state also is participating in a technical assistance program run by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The legislature, which meets in February, is expected to take up legislation to establish an exchange.
• Mississippi – The state created a Mississippi Health Insurance Exchange Study Commission in 2010 and used its $1 million planning grant to fund research and outreach. On April 26 of last year, then-Governor Haley Barbour signed a law that allowed the Study Commission to continue work through 2011. After legislation authorizing an /exchange failed to pass, the state determined in October 2011 that the previously authorized non-profit high-risk pool association could broaden its mission to run the state’s exchange.
• Michigan - On September 14, 2011, Governor Rick Snyder announced his intent to create a state-based exchange called MIHealth Marketplace. The Senate passed bi-partisan exchange legislation in November; however the House failed to act. On November 29, the state was awarded $9.8 million to establish its Exchange and is seeking the legislature’s authority to spend the funds.
• Pennsylvania – On November 23, 2011, Governor Tom Corbett announced his commitment to establishing a state-based exchange. Pennsylvania used the majority of its exchange planning grant to award a contract to a consulting firm to conduct extensive background research. This resulted in a comprehensive analysis of exchange governance models, business operations, structure, plan management and financial management.
So far, the Obama Administration reports that the feds have spent more than $729 million on grants and that every state except Alaska has received some funding from the government to help establish the grants.