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'Uncertainties' highlighted during Michigan House hearing on health insurance exchange

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan legislators are being told that it may already be too late to create an online health insurance exchange. The federal health care law requires states to submit their plans by mid-November, but exchanges require a level of complexity that might make it difficult to have a plan ready in time. 

State House members held their first committee meeting on the exchange today, since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the federal health care law.  Many committee members expressed concerns over “uncertainties” over what the federal rules for exchanges will be, if deadlines will change or even if the program will continue, depending on the results of the general election in November.

Steven Hilfinger is the director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. He told the committee that by not acting now to set up an exchange, Michigan would be making a “de facto” decision to let the federal government to make decisions about health care for Michiganders.

“We may be a little late already to be able to become certified as a state-based exchange in 2014,”  Hilfinger testified.  “If not, hopefully our fallback would be the (federal-state) partnership model rather than just a straight federal exchange… That way, we would be able to control the plan management and have better control over our insurance markets.”

State Representative Gail Haines chaired this morning’s joint hearing of House Health Policy Committee and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The Waterford Township Republican denies the effort to move the health insurance exchange is being stalled.  Haines points to the fact the federal government is still writing the rules for the exchanges as one reason why the state should take its time.

“This is about getting it done right. That has been a major goal for us from the beginning of this process, and it continues to be our goal.” says Haines.

Nineteen states have either decided to set up their own health insurance exchange or allow the federal government to do so for them.  Thirty-one other states have either decided to wait and see what happens with pending federal rule changes or simply to decide to do nothing.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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