POLITICS

Ohio Will Let U.S. Run Obamacare Exchange

11/13/2012 07:31 pm ET

WASHINGTON -- Ohio won't go along with a key component of President Barack Obama's health care reform law and plans to let federal authorities run the health insurance exchange, where individuals and small businesses will buy health coverage, Republican Gov. John Kasich's top insurance regulator said Tuesday.

Mary Taylor (R), the lieutenant governor and director of Ohio's Department of Insurance, announced the state's plan at a health insurance industry conference, Columbus Business First reported.

“We still think it’s best at this time to let the federal government run the exchange,” she told a gathering of the Columbus Association of Health Underwriters, a trade group for agents and brokers.

States have until Friday to tell the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services whether they will set up their own health insurance exchanges, partner with the federal government, or leave the task to U.S. authorities. Based on states' progress before this week, consulting company Avalere Health predicts 20 states will operate exchanges alone, 13 will do jointly with the federal government, and the Department of Health and Human Services will manage the remainder.

Republican governors who opposed the health care reform law have had more than two years to decide whether to go along, but continued to hope that Congress or the Supreme Court would succeed in repealing it. When Obama defeated Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney last Tuesday, the last, best hope of avoiding the law disappeared. Knowing many states hadn't made plans, the Obama administration has given them more time to hammer out the details.

Exchanges are slated to be open across the country next fall to enable people to find health coverage through private plans or Medicaid for 2014. States that don't create exchanges before then may do so in future years under the law.

Earlier Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) said his state won't create its own health insurance exchange, joining Virginia's Bob McDonnell (R), Kansas' Sam Brownback (R) and Missouri's Jay Nixon (D) in announcing they won't have state-run health insurance exchanges. Other Republican governors, including Texas' Rick Perry, Florida's Rick Scott, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and South Carolina's Nikki Haley, have steadfastly refused to consider going along with any part of Obamacare, including the exchanges.

As Nixon's position illustrates, the decision whether to run a state-based health insurance exchange isn't strictly partisan. Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval plans to set up an exchange and Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is trying to persuade skeptical members of his own party to consider an exchange.

Some state officals face pressure not to rebuff the health care reform law. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) appointed an expert panel to weigh the state's options and it unanimously recommended the state participate in Obamacare. In Florida, Scott is being pushed by health care industry groups and others to soften his opposition.

States also have to decide whether to extend Medicaid benefits starting in 2014 to everyone who earns up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $14.856 this year. Stalwart Republican governors from more than a half-dozen states, including Texas, Florida and Alabama, already have ruled out the Medicaid expansion. Ohio hasn't made a final decision, Taylor said, Columbus Business First reported.

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