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Corbett: Pa. chooses federal health insurance exchange

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4:50 p.m.: Pittsburgh-based insurer Highmark Inc. released a statement saying that the announcement “provides needed clarity for all health care stakeholders preparing for reform” and that Highmark will be offering products on the exchanges.

“We believe that exchanges should provide broad choice for consumers; facilitate a competitive marketplace; and hold participating insurers accountable to the same regulatory rules and requirements,” the statement continued. “The exchange model should draw on the expertise of state insurance regulators who know and understand the unique needs of the local insurance marketplace.”

4:35 p.m.: Sam Densico, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry vice president of government affairs, said that due to "the many critical questions left unanswered and the lack of clarity on the financial sustainability of an insurance exchange," the chamber believes Corbett's decision is in the best interests of the state.

4 p.m.: Democrat John Hanger, who recently launched a gubernatorial bid for 2014, said Corbett wasn't earning his salary by outsourcing Pennsylvania's health care interests to the federal government.

"This is yet another example of the governor's failed leadership," Hanger wrote in a statement. "Other Republican governors have decided to create the exchanges to better insure the program will meet the needs of their citizens. Republican Governor Butch Otter of Idaho said he would rather be at the table so Idahoans would not 'be at the federal government's mercy in how that exchange is designed and run.'"

3:50 p.m.: Joseph Butera, spokesman for Susquehanna Township-based Capital BlueCross, said the insurer's PPACA preparations have included the possibility of a federally facilitated exchange.

"We share the same concerns that Governor Corbett has regarding the lack of information about costs and other requirements to run or participate in an Exchange. As a result, Capital BlueCross supports the Governor's decision to not pursue a state-based exchange at this time," Butera wrote.

"In the interim, Capital BlueCross continues to focus on complying with PPACA while also serving our customers, expanding access to health care and identifying new and innovative ways to serve the expanding individual insurance market. As we receive additional guidance from HHS regarding the implementation of Exchanges, we will adjust our programs and policies while maintaining a focus on what is best for our customers and community."

Eric Beittel, president of the Central Pennsylvania Association of Health Underwriters, said he understands the governor's decision and that it would be hard to start an exchange without having all the necessary information.

But, Beittel said, "I'm very fearful of the federal government's ability to build an exchange with Pennsylvania's best interests in mind."

And, he added, as a professional in the insurance industry, "I'm grateful that I finally know who's going to be making the decisions. At least we know who's going to be calling the shots."

Jenny Englerth, CEO of Family First Health, a community health center serving York and Adams counties, said the exchanges will be critical to reducing the number of uninsured Pennsylvanians and ensuring that health care coverage is affordable.

"Unfortunately," she wrote, "I believe that the intent of the exchanges are greatly misunderstood, by consumers and key stakeholders. The federal government will now be providing the structure for the exchange in Pa. and so residents will have opportunity to benefit from increased access to affordable coverage, which is the goal."

3:25 p.m.: Andy Carter, who just today became president and CEO of The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, released a statement saying Pennsylvania's hospitals understand the decision "but remain disappointed that the state will not be taking the lead on an important initiative to provide access to affordable health care coverage for low-income individuals and families."

"We are encouraged that recent guidance from the federal government indicates that even with a federal exchange the Pennsylvania Insurance Department should be able to deploy its knowledge of Pennsylvania's health insurance markets and the strengths of its existing oversight of health insurers, such as fiscal solvency and consumer protection," Carter wrote.

He noted that HAP will continue to press Corbett to move forward with the expansion of Medicaid eligibility.

"Pennsylvania's hospitals supported the ACA as a means toward insuring more people, as hospitals know first-hand the benefits of individuals having health insurance coverage, particularly in accessing primary and preventive care," he wrote.

3:10 p.m.: Dr. C. Richard Schott, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, released a statement on the decision acknowledging that many of the state's questions about exchange costs and regulations went unanswered.

"The law does allow the decision to establish a state-based exchange to be re-evaluated by states each year," Schott wrote. "Hopefully when that time arrives, Pennsylvania will be better informed and can decide whether a state-run exchange makes more sense."

3:05 p.m.: "The Affordable Care Act was written to give states the flexibility to operate their own state-based exchanges and be the innovators of health care reform," wrote Antoinette Kraus, director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network. "Regrettably, Governor Corbett chose to reject this opportunity and instead handed the development of this new marketplace to the federal government.

"Either way, Pennsylvania families and small businesses will finally have access to quality, affordable coverage through this new marketplace on Jan. 1, 2014."

Kraus also urged Corbett to accept federal funding to fully expand Medicaid.

2:15 p.m.: Americans for Prosperity – Pennsylvania, an advocacy group opposed to PPACA, applauded Corbett's decision.

"We thank the Governor for standing strong against the President's intrusive and burdensome healthcare law" said Jennifer Stefano, Pennsylvania state director of Americans for Prosperity in a statement posted on AFP-PA's website. "We are especially grateful to our activists, fellow grassroots leaders and coalition partners for their sustained effort to engage and educate lawmakers on the dangers of a state exchange and for creating the conditions needed for Governor Corbett to make a bold stand."

Initial report

Gov. Tom Corbett announced this afternoon that Pennsylvania will allow the federal government to operate the public health insurance exchange mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"I have decided not to pursue a state-based health insurance exchange at this time," Corbett said in a news release. "It would be irresponsible to put Pennsylvanians on the hook for an unknown amount of money to operate a system under rules that have not been fully written."

According to Corbett, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said on a recent phone call with governors that the regulations released recently were not final and more drafts were to be expected.

Corbett noted that some of the answers that his administration has been requesting for months came only this week, less than five days before the Friday deadline for a state-based exchange decision and blueprint.

In a letter to Sibelius officially announcing the decision, Corbett wrote, "I continue to have strong concerns that 'state authority' to run a health insurance exchange is illusory – when in reality, Pennsylvania would end up shouldering all of the costs by 2015, but have no authority to govern the program."

"Pennsylvanians have waited long enough for answers, and continuing this environment of uncertainty harms Pennsylvania businesses and consumers who are attempting to prepare for the changes created by the PPACA," Corbett wrote to Sibelius.

Pennsylvania is one of 28 states that has declared it will allow the federal government to operate its exchange. By law, the decision to establish a state-based exchange can be re-evaluated by states each year.

Corbett said Pennsylvania will continue to seek guidance from HHS "on the costs, impacts and flexibility involved in the different options for Medicaid expansion."

"We must work together on solutions that provide greater access to high quality and more affordable health care coverage for Pennsylvanians," he said.

Click here to read Corbett's letter.

Get all of your ACA and health care reform news and resources in one place: our Health Care Reform Resource Center.

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