The Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, made an offer to Health and
Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius - that his state would run half the
health insurance exchange and the federal government could run the other half.
Washington has been trying to get states to run their own health
exchanges where small businesses or individuals could shop for their insurance
policies and apply for tax credits against their premiums. The federal
government is prepared to run the exchange for the state and is already doing
so for 32 states.
Utah already has a health exchange, though it does not have some
mandates included in the federal health exchange - provide cover for all
customers, regardless of pre-existing medical history, and those policies which
cover a wide range of services.
The state was to start Avenue H, the proposed marketplace
as the main exchange, in 2014, to sell policies to companies and individuals
under the federal law. State legislators were not willing to sign off on the
changes that would have to comply with the federal law.
Mr. Herbert addressed an audience at American Enterprise institute
and said that he was fine with Utah not being the public face of health's
contentious elements, which included conditions that individuals had to buy
insurance or pay a penalty, including new federal tax credits and extended
Medicaid enrollment standards, which he found fiscally imprudent.
"This state, Utah, has decided that's not the right thing, and
frankly I don't want to be on the receiving end of phone calls, which I believe
will happen, where individuals are going to say, 'Hey, I'm getting a call from
the IRS and they're wanting my tax money to pay a penalty because I haven't
signed up for their insurance program,'" he said.
He had discussed with Ms. Sebelius, that the state had planned
Avenue H could operate the small business parts of the exchange and the federal
government would not be required to run it.
He also told the secretary, "if we cannot coexist peacefully here"
and had been "gratified and encouraged" that she seemed to be willing to
entertain the idea. He said she'd concluded their conversation by saying, "I'd
like to find a way to get to yes."
HHS spokeswoman, Erin Shields Britt, said that the discussion had
been productive and that Ms. Sebelius assured Mr. Herbert that she "wants to
continue to be as flexible as possible within the confines of the law and HHS
will continue working closely with state officials moving forward."
Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number:
Louise Radnofsky, Feb 2013