Gov. John Kasich says that Ohio will let the federal government run its health care exchange. Photo taken by Adam Kiefaber.
Cliff Peale reports:
Ohio will let the federal government run its health care exchange, a key portion of health care reform, Gov. John Kasich said today.
The state will try to keep control of several key features, such as determining who qualifies for Medicare and enforcing rules on plan benefits.
“Based on the information we have, states do not have any flexibility to build and manage exchanges in ways that respond to the unique needs of their citizens or markets,” Kasich wrote to federal health care officials.
The exchanges are meant to provide a market for individuals and the smallest companies to buy affordable health care policies.
Consumers are supposed to be able to choose policies by October 2013 with coverage starting in January 2014.
They are one of the latest flashpoints in implementing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Kentucky, with a Democratic governor, has moved aggressively toward its own state exchange, using about $66 million in federal grants to create and implement the marketplace. Indiana, with Republican leadership, is expected to default to a federal exchange.
The exchange issue is critical because at least 7 percent of companies, mostly smaller ones, are expected to stop offering benefits and force employees to buy insurance on health care exchanges.
Benefits of a federal exchange start with cost. A study commissioned by Ohio officials showed that annual operating costs of a state exchange would range from $19 million to $34 million, excluding technology. Fees from providers and insurers would pay most of those costs.
But the state exchange also holds benefits, most prominently the ability to manage the insurance marketplace while it also regulates doctors and hospitals.
For example, while any plan would have to meet federal standards for minimum benefits, the state could monitor compliance with enrollment periods, premium increases and consumer complaints in a state-based exchange.
“The positive (of federal control) is, it takes that monkey off the state’s back if the exchange can’t sustain itself,” said Kate Keller, senior program officer at the policy Group Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. “The negative is, you have someone else outside of Ohio making decisions.”
The distinction won’t matter much to consumers “until you have a problem,” Keller added. “It becomes a much bigger bureaucracy” under federal control.
House Speaker and West Chester resident John Boehner applauds the decision:
“I’m proud of my governor, John Kasich, for taking a stand and resisting the federal takeover of health care in Ohio. By declining to implement a government-run ‘exchange’ and preserving Ohio’s ability to regulate health insurance on its own, Governor Kasich is protecting Ohio families and small businesses from some of the steep costs and red tape created by ObamaCare. The president’s health care law is already raising costs, making it harder for small businesses to hire, and forcing employers to reduce worker hours. But with Democrats still in control of Washington, fighting it requires bold state leadership and aggressive oversight by the Republican-led House. While our goal is still full repeal, actions like the ones taken by Ohio and other states are critical in protecting the American people and our economy from the impact of this disastrous law.”
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