To my great disappointment, Governor Tom Corbett has decided to allow the federal government to run Pennsylvania’s health insurance exchange that will serve an estimated one million Pennsylvanians.
Our state now joins 19 other states that have also made the decision to give up states’ rights to decide what’s best for its citizens, with the majority of these states being led by Republican governors. Ironically, these states are going against a fundamental conservative belief that states should make their own decisions rather than to give control to the federal government.
The Affordable Care Act was created so that it gives states flexibility in developing a state-based plan. However, Governor Corbett has used this elasticity as something negative and expressed that the reason for his decision was based on the fact that too many unknowns remained in how to develop a state-based health exchange. If this was truly the Governor’s thinking, why didn’t the administration decide to work with the federal government and develop a federal-state partnership which was one of the options available to every state? This type of decision would have guaranteed our state officials would have a say in how our health exchange was administered but at the same time have the guidance of the federal government.
Furthermore, a little over a year ago, Governor Corbett expressed that he was leaning towards a state-based exchange. Interestingly enough, in December, a Pennsylvania Insurance Department spokesperson said in an email to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that “all things being equal, we still believe a state-based exchange would protect our local marketplace.”
Pennsylvania has a vast history of developing successful health insurance programs including Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) and the now non-existent adultBasic, which has ended under the Corbett Administration. Keep in mind that our state’s CHIP program was so successful that is served as a model to the national program. Allowing the federal government to run Pennsylvania’s health insurance exchange will deny us the opportunity to once again craft an effective healthcare policy that would be tailored to Pennsylvania’s citizens instead of a generic policy catering to the entire United States.
In closing, in a couple of years, the federal government will no longer be picking up the tab for Pennsylvania’s health insurance exchange. With this in mind, you would think Governor Corbett would want to be in complete control and have the authority to govern the program and the ability to determine if the delivery of the health exchange is meeting the needs of the estimated 1 million people in Pennsylvania the health insurance exchange will affect? But as we have witnessed with the administration’s decision, this is not the case.
The Affordable Care Act does allow every state that has made the decision to establish a state-based exchange to reevaluate this choice each year and change who runs the health exchange. At this point, I guess Pennsylvania’s best hope is that Governor Corbett will reverse his decision and let the people’s voices finally be heard.
Senator Wayne D. Fontana
42nd Senatorial District