W. Va. Balks at Health Exchange Program

Thursday, 15 Nov 2012 01:01 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appears likely to scrap the state’s plans for running a health insurance exchange, according to public health advocates and state lawmakers.
 
The Democratic governor has until Friday to notify the Department of Health and Human Services about whether the state will create its own online insurance marketplace — a key component of Obamacare — or let the federal government do it, the Charleston Gazette reported Thursday.
 
Tomblin administration officials would not confirm whether the governor has actually decided against a state-run program. But state House Health Committee Chairman Don Perdue told the Gazette he believes Tomblin intends to pursue a joint state-federal partnership that would leave most of the decisions on establishing the exchange to Washington officials.
 
"The partnership is heavily weighted to the federal government," Perdue said. "It's the same old story. We're taking the easy way out."
 
Under Tomblin's direction the state has already spent millions in federal grant money on planning a West Virginia-run exchange program. Last year, the governor even signed legislation establishing the West Virginia Benefits Exchange to be headed by a 10-member board. But no board members were ever appointed.
 
Tomblin, however, still has time to take advantage of the planning that already been done. If he decides to submit a proposal by tomorrow, state officials will have until Dec. 16 to deliver a final plan.

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