Wyoming to miss deadline on health care exchange
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: November 15, 2012
Wyoming will not meet a deadline to create its own health insurance exchange.
The state had been expected to miss the deadline, as lawmakers have lingering questions for federal officials over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. The law requires states to have insurance exchanges.
The deadline to submit a letter of intent to create an exchange is Friday, but Gov. Matt Mead won’t be sending one, said spokesman Renny MacKay.
Obamacare mandates states have exchanges, virtual markets where residents can buy insurance. The law allows states to create their own, but if they don’t, the federal government will create and run one for them.
With Wyoming missing the deadline, the federal government probably will implement one for the state in 2014.
Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, who sits on the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, said lawmakers are still undecided on what would be best.
Some would rather have the federal government spend the time and energy to set up the exchange and deal with the headaches, he said.
Others fear that would allow too much federal involvement in the lives of Wyoming citizens.
The committee, which met Tuesday, will meet again in December to further discuss the issue.
“There was some concern that we waited too long, but I don’t think so,” Dockstader said.
Dockstader favors a third option: “I’d like to see if there’s an opportunity to bring in other states,” he said. “I’d like to reach out perhaps to the other mountain states.”
The idea of several states forming a single exchange has been tossed around since the inception of Obamacare.
But St. John’s Medical Center Chief Executive Lou Hochheiser said the law makes that difficult.
Under the law, health insurance can’t be sold across state lines for the next several years, Hochheiser said. He also understands the state’s worries.
“I can understand why the state is reluctant, because it doesn’t know all the rules,” he said. “It’s concerned about its population base and how rural and spread out we are. While conceptually it may be a good idea, it may be very difficult to implement.”
Wyoming’s small population is another problem.
“Because the population to be covered in this state is so small, it may be harder for a state like Wyoming to get participants from the insurance companies,” Hochheiser said.
Still, a state-run exchange would be more uniquely tailored to the needs of residents, he said.
“I think that states would obviously be better off creating their own exchanges,” Hochheiser said. “There’s more knowledge of what the needs are in the states.”
Dawn Sheue, president of Summit Insurance, also took the view that some lawmakers have. “The government is trying to bully states into making decisions fast,” Sheue said.