Obama admin extends states' insurance-exchange deadline, again

Yesterday, the Obama administration announced that they’re extending the deadline by which states need to report whether or not they’ll be participating in setting up their own state-specific health insurance exchanges, through which people will be able to shop for ObamaCare-approved insurance plans and apply for tax subsidies toward the cost of premiums (the states’ other options are forging a partnership with the federal government, or just letting the federal government take control of the whole kit and caboodle). The deadline was already extended once to today, but Health and Human Services pushed it back another month until December 14th since many states are still in quite the pickle about the whole thing — and plenty are leaning toward just letting the federal government pick up the pieces. Byron York summarizes why:

They have several reasons. One, they believe the exchanges will cost their states a lot of money. Two, they believe the federal government will exercise ultimate control, meaning there will be little benefit for a state to do the heavy lifting to get the exchanges started. And three, some suspect the exchanges will be a disorganized and troubled enterprise, and when the implementation of Obamacare comes under criticism, the blame will lie with the administration, and not the states.

Some conservatives are urging the governors not only to stay out of the exchanges but also to reject Obamacare’s planned expansion of Medicaid. That could be a crippling blow to the health care law. …

The extension was apparently in response to a letter sent by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, as the subject was a hot topic at the Republican Governors’ Association meeting in Las Vegas this week, via the WSJ:

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, had said this week that he couldn’t commit to the state running its own exchanges without more information about the rules that would be set for the state and the federally-run marketplaces. Mr. McDonnell wrote to Mr. Obama asking for more time this week. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius replied late Thursday, offering a December 14 deadline.

Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, another signer of the letter to Mr. Obama asking for a delay, has said he would continue to refuse to run an exchange.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said Thursday he had decided not to run a state exchange, as did Gov.-elect Mike Pence of Indiana. …

Mr. Heineman said federal officials were unwilling to give the state enough say over how it would operate an exchange of its own. “They’ve made it abundantly clear: they’re in charge,” he said.

Alabama Republican Gov. Robert Bentley also has said he wouldn’t run a state exchange, saying he feared being saddled with additional costs.

But there are still states on the fence, like Virginia, and I’m wondering if the request for the extension wasn’t actually a bit of a godsend for the Obama administration, too. If a bunch of states decide not to cooperate, it’s going to take a colossal bureaucratic effort from the federal government to get these states set up, and it might be too much work to handle by the time these exchanges are supposed to be operational by October of next year. They kind of need more states to get on board with this, and the extra month might give them a chance for some persuasion.

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