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Deadline this week for state to pick option under Obamacare

Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

Gov. Tom Corbett will decide by Friday whether the state will set up its own online health insurance marketplace or leave the task to the federal government.

That's the deadline for letting the federal Department of Health and Human Services know the state's plans, said Rosanne Placey, spokeswoman for the state Insurance Department, which is leading the state's examination of the marketplaces, known as exchanges.

“A final decision hasn't been reached yet,” said Placey, who noted that she expects the administration to publicly announce its decision.

The exchanges are a key part of President Obama's health care reform that will expand insurance coverage to millions of Americans.

The online marketplaces are supposed to be open by Oct. 1 so that individuals and small businesses can buy insurance for 2014. Federal subsidies to help low-wage workers buy insurance will only be available through exchanges.

If Pennsylvania decides against setting up its own exchange, the federal government will take over. There is a third option, known as a partnership exchange in which the state would run some aspects and Washington would handle others.

If states go that route, they have until Feb. 15 to let Health and Human Services know which parts of a partnership exchange they will run.

Three Democratic state senators from Eastern Pennsylvania last week urged Corbett, a Republican who opposed the health care reform law, to set up a state-based exchange.

“We have an opportunity to work with the Obama administration to tailor an insurance exchange that fits the needs of people across Pennsylvania. We must not pass up this opportunity,” said state Sen. Shirley Kitchen, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.

Kitchen was joined by Sens. Mike Stack, Democratic chairman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, and Anthony Williams, Democratic whip, in calling for Corbett to act quickly.

Administration officials have said previously that they needed answers to a range of questions about exchanges before a decision could be made.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Monday released answers to 39 “Frequently Asked Questions” about exchanges and other aspects of the reform law.

Placey said officials are reviewing those answers.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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