Herbert Wants More Answers About Federal Health Insurance Exchange

(KCPW News) Utah Governor Gary Herbert wants more answers about what the federal health insurance exchange means for Utah. Monday, he sent a list of questions to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that he wants answered before considering whether joining the federal heath exchange would be in the best interest of the state. Norm Thurston, Utah’s Health Reform Implementation Coordinator, says the state has run its own program since 2009 and there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered before the federal government’s December 14th deadline.

“Those questions revolve around two sort of main areas of concern, Thurston said, one being cost, what is this going to cost the citizens of Utah? And the other being control, how much influence will local policy makers which are elected by our local citizens have in the process versus how much of those decisions will be made by federal bureaucrats which our local citizens don’t have the ability to elect or influence?”

However, Judi Hilman, Executive Director of the Utah Health Policy Project, thinks the state’s leaders may be trying to strip the Affordable Care Act of what is intended to do.

“Things like affordability, things like whether we will be sharing risk as a community so we can do away with punishing people for pre-existing conditions and discriminatory pricing on premiums related to that,” Hillman said. “They’re asking for flexibility on things that are really at the heart of the Affordable Care Act.”

A federal deadline for states to make a decision was moved from last Friday to December 14th. In his letter to Sebelius, Herbert said he could not make a decision until he had answers to his questions and consulted with the state legislature which doesn’t meet until mid-January.