Health Care Campaigns Build on Both Sides

Insurance News Net reports:

“Jan. 21, 2011 — The states that have health insurance exchanges, or are moving forward on establishing exchanges, now number at least seven, after two states announced their efforts.

The states disclosed their plans during a week filled with conflicting news involving the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, the act that calls for creation of the exchanges.

California was the first to sign legislation to implement an exchange under the ACA, according to a statement this week from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The California law was signed on Sept. 30, 2010. The exchange will be called the California Exchange Benefit, HHS says.

In addition, Colorado is conducting research and economic analysis of its health insurance markets to identify options for structuring an exchange, HHS says.

These developments are in addition to initiatives by West Virginia, Maryland and Oregon, and the exchanges already in operation in Utah and Massachusetts, as reported previously by

Exchanges are to be marketplaces that help individuals and businesses compare policies and premiums.

Under ACA, the exchanges must be operational by 2014. However, uncertainty about the staying power of the ACA itself continues to cast doubt over what is likely to happen with the exchanges.

This week, for instance, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi Schmidt filed a request with the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Fla. to allow six more states — Wisconsin, Wyoming, Ohio, Kansas, Maine and Iowa — to join the 20-state challenge in Florida to the constitutionality of the ACA. The first four states had been expected but the last two were surprises to ACA watchers.

The development brings the total ACA challengers in Florida to 26 states plus the National Federation of Independent Businesses and two individuals are plaintiffs.

Also this week,

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius filed a notice of appeal in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Virginia, seeking to overturn that court’s December decision tossing out the individual mandate in the ACA. This development was expected but is another sign that the status of the ACA is in limbo.

–The U.S. House of Representatives did vote this week to repeal the ACA, as the Republicans majority had predicted. The repeal legislation is not expected to pass the Senate, but the vote is still a sign of ongoing controversy over ACA.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) announced that his committee will hold a hearing on the impact the ACA will have on the U.S. economy and employers’ ability to hire new workers and retain existing employees. The hearing is slated for Jan. 26.

Undeterred by those developments, HHS has been pumping out various statements about how the ACA is bringing “freedom and security” to health care for Americans.

HHS has also been dangling new money in front of the states. This week, for example, HHS announced it’s offering funding to help move state exchange development along. The grants include multi-year funding for states that are moving ahead at a faster pace, and step-by-step funding for those seeking support on a project year basis, according to an HHS statement.

This money is in addition to the $49 million in “exchange planning grants” that HHS awarded in July 2010. Most all states received $1 million each for exchange planning purposes from that round of funding.

Over a five-year period, HHS is authorized to distribute a total of $250 million in exchange-related grants to states.”