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Ohio's lieutenant governor explains her concerns on health insurance exchanges

Ernie Shannon's picture
Mary Taylor

Ohio's lieutenant governor who also functions as the state’s insurance commissioner is being accused of stonewalling the state’s effort to create federally mandated health insurance exchanges. Mary Taylor responds she is not dragging her feet, but has serious concerns over Ohio’s ability to manage the exchange industry once it’s established there.

Democratic legislators are upset that Ohio is behind the curve in setting up insurance exchanges, something a number of other states have already created. They accuse Lt. Gov. Taylor of using her personal bias against the Obama administration’s Affordable Health Care Act to block implementation of this key provision in the act. The purpose of the exchanges is to provide an online store where individuals and small businesses can compare and buy health insurance. Other goals, according to the act, include making health insurance easier to understand and creating more competition among insurers.

Democratic state Senator Michael Skindel of Lakewood, Ohio, told reporters last week that, “the legislature can no longer sit and watch idly as the director of the Department of Insurance does nothing to establish the state’s health exchange.”
Following up that pledge, Democrats in Ohio’s General Assembly introduced legislation to create the Ohio Health Benefit Exchange Agency, a body that would set up the exchange.

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Columbus Democrat Rep. John Carney told the same reporters that Taylor, who regularly criticizes the health care law, derisively calling it “Obamacare” in public appearances and opinion pieces, has repeatedly refused to disclose what she’s doing in regard to the exchange.”

In a speech last week before the Columbus Association of Health Underwriters, Taylor said, “At the end of the day, regardless of a federal run exchange or a state-run exchange, I feel we’re going to have little control in the decisions that we need to make to do what’s best for Ohio and do what’s best for Ohio consumers.”

The Columbus Dispatch is also reporting that Taylor has co-sponsored a resolution encouraging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Congress to change a provision in the federal law that could negatively affect health insurance agents and brokers. She told the Dispatch that agents and brokers provide a valuable service to their clients.

Exchanges were intended by the administration of President Barrack Obama as a governmental or quasi-governmental entity to help health insurance companies comply with consumer regulations and to compete in cost-efficient ways, and to facilitate the expansion of insurance coverage to more people. Exchanges are not themselves insurers, so they do not bear risk themselves, but determine the insurance companies that are allowed to participate in them exchange in Massachusetts. Some hope that insurance exchanges also will help to contain overall health costs.

Image source of Mary Taylor: Ohio.gov