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Corbett gets more time on health care exchange

Associated Press Modified: November 16, 2012 at 4:31 pm •  Published: November 16, 2012

But given the tightening time frame to get one running by 2014, Highmark spokesman Michael Weinstein said it is more important that the market provide a broad choice of plans with all insurers regulated equally by the state.

"Those are critical for whatever structure emerges here in Pennsylvania," Weinstein said.

Geisinger Health System, which operates across central and northeastern Pennsylvania, prefers a state-run exchange because it would be better-tailored to the state and less bureaucratic.

"However, at this late date we have concerns as to whether there is enough time for such an exchange to happen," Frank Trembulak, Geisinger's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "At this point, we are awaiting the commonwealth's decision."

Sam Marshall, president of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, which represents for-profit insurers, said he doesn't believe it is practical to expect the state to pass enabling legislation and begin accepting applications Oct. 1, 2013.

Regardless, "it is important to get it right from the outset, more than to get it done fast," Marshall said. "Because if it is to work, it will need consumer confidence from the outset."

The Washington, D.C.-based group Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by billionaire energy executives Charles and David Koch and spent tens of millions of dollars trying to defeat Obama in the election, is among those urging Corbett and other governors to reject it.

The new insurance exchanges will allow households and small businesses to buy a private health plan, and many will get help from the government to pay their premiums. Under the law, states that can't or won't set up exchanges will have theirs run by the federal government.

States considering a partnership have until mid-February to make a decision. The partnership option allows states to handle consumer relations and oversight of health plans, while the federal government does the bulk of the work, including handling enrollment and figuring out how much taxpayer-funded help consumers may be entitled to.