RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Bob McDonnell told the Obama administration Thursday that while Virginia will use a federally run health insurance exchange, the state intends to retain regulatory authority over insurance providers that do business with Virginians through the exchange.
McDonnell's Feb. 14 letter to Gary Cohen of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirms his December position not to commit Virginia to establishing its own exchange that would be financed and operated by the state. Instead, they could buy health insurance through an exchange that the federal government funds and runs.
But the Republican governor's letter also attempts to carve out an accommodation with the Democratic White House that would be novel among states. It stipulates that Virginia would still license or certify plans and providers that are marketed to Virginians in the federal exchange.
Exchanges, or new health insurance markets accessed mostly online, are scheduled to debut this fall as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
The exchanges will offer individuals and their families a choice of private health plans, similar to what workers at major companies get. The government will help many middle-class households pay their premiums, while low-income people will be referred to safety-net programs they might qualify for.
McDonnell has been a fierce critic of the federal health care overhaul, particularly as a leading proxy last fall for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who pledged to repeal and revise the president's plan. Virginia was the first state to challenge the reforms' constitutionality when Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit the same day Obama signed it into law. The Supreme Court upheld the law in a 5-4 decision in 2011.
In his letter to Cohen, McDonnell said Virginia "will choose to evaluate whether a plan or issuer meets particular certification standards and conduct other specified plan management activities as part of its long-standing regulatory role and in connection with market reform standards."