Utah’s Republican majority in the Legislature is jumping the gun with many members’ efforts to be first to reject any association or participation with the federal health insurance exchanges, which are slated to start in October 2013. Legislators would be wise to emulate Gov. Gary Herbert, who is seeking answers from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius before he takes a stand on whether Utah would join the exchange.
Utah has its own health care insurance exchange, which does not meet the federal government’s requirements. However, the feds have been very slow to offer any guidance to the states on how to tailor existing state exchanges to co-exist with the federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration has extended a deadline for states to join the exchange to Dec. 13.
Herbert has written a letter to Sebelius, where he states that Utah will not deviate from the principles in its current exchange, Avenue H. However, he leaves open the possibility of working with a federal exchange if Sebelius can answer specific questions, which include: "How much will it cost the state to participate in a federal exchange, including the government, taxpayers, and the private sector?"
The governor is not alone in his concerns. Thirty-one state leaders have asked the feds for more information on the federal exchange. Answers have been very slow from Sebelius. The massive size of the Affordable Care Act, with its thousands of pages, probably confounds the feds as much as states. Former House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi,, D-Calif., was likely right when she quipped a couple of years ago that one had to read the health care bill to learn what was in it.
However, bureaucracy aside, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, and the exchanges are a reality. Herbert is being responsible by working with Sebelius and the feds on Utah’s exchange. Legislators should show that same team spirit.