States That Delayed Implementation of Health Care Exchanges Pending NFIB v. Sebelius Given Extension

November 12th, 2012

Now the states will have an additional month to get the exchanges rolling:

The original Nov. 16 deadline will be extended to Dec. 14 — and in some cases to Feb. 15, the administration said. . . .

Every state is supposed to have an exchange by Jan. 1, 2014, when the federal government will require most Americans to have insurance. Many states delayed work on the exchanges to see the outcome of a Supreme Court case challenging the health care law, then waited to see if President Obama would be re-elected.

If a state wants to run its own exchange, its governor still must submit a declaration of intent — generally a brief letter of one or two pages — by Nov. 16. But states will have more time to submit the detailed applications required by federal officials.

Eventually, most, if not all of the states will come around, even if states like Ohio have constitutional provisions prohibiting the creation of these exchanges. Even if the states decline to participate, the Federal Government will operate an exchange for them.

In a letter to governors on Friday, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said that many states had asked for “additional time” to submit applications indicating whether they wanted to run their own exchanges or help the federal government run exchanges in their states.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will run the exchanges in any states that are unable or unwilling to do so. Fewer than half the states have indicated that they will set up their own exchanges.

If states want to run their own exchanges, Ms. Sebelius said, they will have until Dec. 14 to submit applications, or blueprints. And if states want to run exchanges in partnership with the federal government, she said, they will have until Feb. 15 to file applications.

Now that we know that President Obama will be in office until 2016, at which point the ACA will be fully implemented, it is simply a matter of when, rather than if, these exchanges go forward. Republican protestations to the contrary are just that.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said the change in the deadline was “no surprise” because the White House had not given states enough information or guidance to make decisions.

“Frankly,” Mr. Hatch said, “the fact that the exchanges are such a mess is pretty emblematic of how flawed the president’s health law is — with states having to bear the brunt.”

Representative Charles Boustany Jr. of Louisiana, a spokesman for House Republicans on health policy, said he doubted that extending the deadline would make the law any more workable.