White House Gives States More Time to Implement Obamacare

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is getting his wish — more time to submit a plan for a state health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

McDonnell and other governors, mostly Republicans, have complained that they were not given enough time or information to enable the to decide whether, and how, their states would set up health insurance exchanges or whether they would leave the job to the federal government.

On Friday, the Obama Administration extended the Nov. 16 deadline to Dec. 14, or in some cases to Feb. 15.

By Jan. 1, 2014, Americans will be able to obtain insurance coverage through new online shopping malls known as insurance exchanges. As any as 25 million people are expected to be eligible for federal subsidies averaging about $5,000 a year to help them pay the premiums.

The exchanges are intended to spark competition among private insurers, encouraging them to hold down premiums and compete to provide the best possible coverage. Although it is essentially a free-market system with what might be called voucher payments to individuals, it rankles Republican governors who apparently would prefer to let their citizens fend for themselves.

Critics say it’s not that the governors hadn’t been given enough information but rather  that they were dragging their feet, first hoping the Supreme Court would overturn the law, then hoping that Gov. Mitt Romney would be elected president and would, somehow, repeal Obamacare “on Day One,” as he had often claimed he would do.

Having done nothing for months, the McDonnell Administration began complaining earlier this week that it was feeling rushed.

“States need to understand the federal exchange model and answers remain to be provided as to how the pieces will link together within an exchange partnership between the federal and the state,” McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell told the Washington Business Journal. “We now have 10 days until the first decision is expected. This is not a reasonable timeline given the lack of information provided to states.”

The White House said Friday that if a state wants to run its own exchange its governor must submit a declaration of intent — a simple letter — but said submission of detailed information will not be required until later.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said that, the governors’ whining notwithstanding, “Cosumers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will have access to insurance through these new marketplaces on Jan. 1, 2014, as scheduled, with no delays.”


About the Author

James R. Hood
James R. Hood is the editor and publisher of FairfaxNews.com. A former Associated Press editor and executive, he has more than 50 years of reporting experience.