DN Editorial: Corbett among governors playing politics with health care

Posted: November 21, 2012

ONE OF THE big themes pushed in the last election by Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was reducing the size and influence of the federal government. Romney in particular was keen on pushing as much power to the states as possible.

So why is it that Republican governors - including, so far, Tom Corbett - are refusing to set up state-run health exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act, and insisting that the federal government do it for them?

Sounds to us like they've taken the Hypocritic Oath.

The exchanges are essentially websites in each state where people and businesses can shop for health coverage. The health-reform law stipulated that states can set up their own exchanges, or opt out and let the feds do it.

State-run exchanges have an advantage of giving the state more control over the health insurance marketplace, and also allows each state to design the best way to oversee it.

Last week, on the eve of the original deadline for the state exchanges, more than a dozen Republican governors said they wouldn't participate. The deadline has been extended to Dec. 14. Gov. Corbett, who a year ago expressed support for the exchanges, is now punting. No progress has been made on setting up a state exchange, despite a large federal planning grant.

What is unconscionable here is the impact this has on people. Over a million Pennsylvanians are uninsured, although the exchanges would also be open to those who are insured to allow them to shop for better or less expensive coverage.

Clearly, an exchange with local control and oversight will be able to provide better options for people. Those "better options" are not insignificant: they can have a direct impact on someone's health.

Another political football being punted by many Republican governors is a federal expansion of Medicaid, which gives coverage to low-income people.

Corbett announced Monday in remarks at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon that the state cannot absorb the cost of any expansion of the Medicaid program, fearing it would spiral out of control. But the facts are these: the expansion of the Medicaid program is being covered 100 percent by the federal government for the first three years; that support gradually declines year by year but never goes below 90 percent. Given the amount of money that leaves on the table, Corbett gets to make a very expensive political point - at the expense of many citizens.

The politicization of health care is a dangerous game, being played primarily by people who, at least in this state, have platinum health plans, and many of those people get them for life. We doubt any have spent one second imagining the prospect of falling ill with no money and no health plan.

(More info at familiesusa.org and pennbpc.org.)

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