Choice looms for Ariz governor on health exchange

Associated Press Modified: November 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm •  Published: November 13, 2012
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Senate Health Committee Chairman Nancy Barto offered a similar assessment of legislative leanings but said Brewer's office "at least on the exchange seems committed to take a chance on Obamacare."

"I would hope she wouldn't do it without consideration of her party," Barto said. "She has a record of standing up to the federal government and standing up for her party's ideals, and this is a big part of that discussion."

Proposing a state-run exchange wouldn't be the first time Brewer has defied the wishes of most GOP lawmakers on a politically dicey issue.

After a year of trying, she was able to get lawmakers to put a temporary sales tax increase on a statewide ballot. Voters overwhelmingly approved it in 2010 to avoid deep cuts to schools and other services during the state's budget crisis.

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson declined to discuss what legislators' "potential appetite" would be for having a state-run exchange.

On a related health care law issue with similar state-vs.-federal considerations, Brewer decided it was better to have the state run its own program to review health insurance rates than let the federal government handle it. The state has formally approved rules for a rate-review program.

Regarding the exchange, Brewer health policy adviser Don Hughes has said the governor wants to impose as few regulations and requirements on insurers as possible so it doesn't turn into a duplicative regulator of the industry.

Conservative groups such as the Goldwater Institute and Americans for Prosperity are calling for Brewer to stiff-arm the federal law's mandate for an exchange. Meanwhile, social-service advocacy groups are weighing in with calls for the state to create an exchange that is friendly to consumers on affordability, convenience and oversight.

"We're optimistic that consumers will have influence in the design of it," said Stephen Jennings, an AARP Arizona associate director.

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