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.
AdvertisementUtah 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: 2710062).
Louise Radnofsky, Feb 2013
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