The decision by the feds to allow Utah to run its own health insurance exchange as part of the new Affordable Care Act underscores the strength Utah's Republican-led government has in dealing with the expansion of government that the Obama administration has created with the new health care law.
Although Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the fed's approval of Utah's Avenue H state health exchange "conditional" upon further improvements to Avenue H, the fact is that the feds are overwhelmed with setting up exchanges in many Republican-led states that are refusing to install their own exchanges. Utah's middling offer to provide its conservative-based exchange is a relief to the over-extended Obama administration.
Implementing Obamacare by 2014 will be tough. The administration, not surprisingly, has learned that it will be tougher than it thought three years ago when it passed the law. For example, there were noticeable delays from HHS in issuing regulations designed to guide states in crafting exchanges. And next year, when insurers can no longer refuse coverage, draws closer. That means millions of new patients that must be insured.
To sum up, this deadline provides Utah an opportunity to create a health exchange that fits the needs of our state, and not a generic plan hatched by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Ironically, many Republican-led states, such as Wisconsin and Texas, that are loudly refusing to set their own health exchanges, will find themselves saddled with exchanges that were created not with local input, but from the Obama administration officials. Such politically based reluctance seems counter-productive to us.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is smart enough to understand that Avenue H will need tweaks in order to work with the federal health care law. The health care mandate, price controls, consumer protections, all are key components of Obamacare that Utah will need to be aligned with. Nevertheless, having a home-grown health exchange provides officials with a template that is specifically designed to work for all Utahns. That means that local needs will be a main priority; from how to insure Ogden's high number of poor inner-city families, including many children, to dealing with Utah's middle class, which is straining to deal with constant increases in insurance premiums and other costs.