COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Gov. Nikki Haley told the federal government Thursday that South Carolina won't set up a state health exchange, saying President Barack Obama's re-election did not change her stance.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Haley said the exchanges called for under the federal health care law known as Obamacare are state-based in name only.
"Instead, they simply pass along to the state the burdens of a new and cumbersome bureaucracy," Haley wrote.
Haley's decision is no surprise. The letter meets a Friday deadline for states to declare their intention.
The insurance exchanges are meant to function as one-stop online marketplaces of private health plans. They're supposed to help households and small businesses find an affordable private health plan. The 2010 health reform law requires residents to have insurance by 2014 or face penalties.
Haley said the law doesn't provide states flexibility and, 2½ years after its passage, too many of the exchange regulations remain unknown.
Under the law, states that can't or won't set up exchanges will have theirs run by Washington.
A backer of the law said that's a good thing. Haley, along with other Republican governors, had hoped a change in the White House would bring a repeal of the law.
"Does it make sense to turn over the operation of a new entity to the people who wanted to kill it?" asked Frank Knapp, president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. "Those of us who are big supporters of the Affordable Care Act are OK with the feds running the exchange for exactly that reason. The current administration doesn't like it, wanted to kill it, and probably wouldn't do a very good job at it."
Haley, who campaigned with Mitt Romney, is still calling for at least a delay in the law.
The federal government needs to provide all states the final regulations and details on how the exchanges will be operational by Oct. 1, 2013 — when open enrollment is slated to start — or delay implementation, Haley wrote.
"The amount of uncertainty in our economy is growing given the lack of information available from the federal government at a time when we can hardly afford it," she said.
State Democratic Chairman Dick Harpootlian said Haley's letter was predictable.
"She's more concerned with politics than making sure the people of the state have health coverage," he said.
Haley received criticism for taking a federal planning grant last year to study exchanges, without ever intending to create one. The Post and Courier reported last December that Haley told the study committee its purpose was to figure out how to opt out, not create a state exchange. The panel spent more than $300,000 of the $1 million grant.