Aide says Brewer needs more answers on health law

Associated Press Modified: November 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm •  Published: November 23, 2012

Hughes said he's reviewing proposed federal rules released Tuesday on covered benefits, pre-existing medical conditions and wellness coverage.

But he said significant questions remain unanswered, including what responsibilities would be imposed on the state if it opts to let the federal government run an exchange for Arizona and whether the federal government will come through with planned systems and services for determining a person's eligibility for coverage or subsidies.

"It's hard to know whether we do it or let the feds do it without knowing what the rules are," Hughes said. "The rules need to be done. I need to know what the federal exchange is going to look like."

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius extended the Nov. 16 exchange decision deadline to Dec. 14, saying she was responding to governors who said they needed more time and information.

Creation of a state-run exchange for Arizona would require legislative approval, and such a proposal would stir controversy at the Republican-led Legislature.

Many GOP lawmakers and conservative groups such as the Goldwater Institute oppose the health law, while social-service advocates and a coalition of business groups, hospital and insurance companies are urging Brewer to establish a state exchange.

Hughes said the law does provide "a great deal of flexibility for states on both major policy issues and technical issues," but he declined to respond directly when asked whether the law's opponents are wrong in their criticism on that issue.

"They hate me already," he said, noting that some critics of the law have dubbed him Brewer's "health care czar."