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Should Haslam let feds set up health care exchange?

Staff Report • Dec 18, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Gov. Bill Haslam said last week he is content with allowing the federal government to establish Tennessee’s health insurance exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act. Haslam, who earlier suggested it might be prudent for the state to have some say in the creation of the exchange, held a news conference Dec. 10 to say he thinks the health care law places too many restrictions on states.

“The Obama administration has set an aggressive timeline to implement exchanges, while there is still a lot of uncertainty about how the process will actually work,” the Republican governor said. “What has concerned me more and more is that they seem to be making this up as they go.”

The state exchanges will create new online markets where consumers will be able to buy individual private health insurance coverage. The new law has been fiercely opposed by state Republican leaders. Many members of the GOP-controlled state General Assembly have repeatedly told Haslam they do not wish to get involved with the health care law, which they derisively call “Obamacare.”

Haslam said last month he believed Tennessee’s experience with TennCare could prove most valuable in setting up the state’s health exchange. The governor said his position began to change in recent weeks as his administration began to receive more data on the exchange program. Haslam’s announcement also came a week after tea party members assembled outside the state Capitol Building to protest the idea of a state-run exchange. Several of the protesters called the idea “Haslamcare.”

Haslam told reporters his decision to allow the feds to set up the exchange was based on a “scary” lack of details of the plan.

“In weighing all of the information we currently have, I informed the federal government today that Tennessee will not run a state-based exchange,” he said in a prepared statement. “If conditions warrant in the future and it makes sense at a later date for Tennessee to run the exchange, we would consider that as an option at the appropriate time.”

We want to hear from you. Do you think the governor is correct in letting the federal government set up Tennessee’s health care exchange?

Send comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Include your name, phone number and address for verification. We will print responses in the coming weeks.

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