Wyoming lawmakers push to delay Obamacare info

2013-07-24T06:00:00Z 2013-08-16T12:31:22Z Wyoming lawmakers push to delay Obamacare infoBy JOSHUA WOLFSON Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

The Obama administration’s decision to postpone a key part of the Affordable Care Act prompted state lawmakers Tuesday to delay advertising the federal health exchange that’s being developed for Wyoming.

The online insurance marketplace won’t be directly affected by the decision to delay until 2015 the requirement that companies provide health insurance for workers. But members of a legislative committee studying exchanges interpreted the slowdown as a sign the federal health reform law could fall apart.

Legislators prefer to see what happens with the law before promoting the new marketplace — which is designed to allow people to shop online for insurance like they do airline tickets. The marketplace will begin enrollment Oct. 1.

“I worry about the state taking ownership of a federal disaster, misleading people, and they drop coverage thinking the ACA is coming,” said Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper. “And then the federal thing doesn’t work.”

Officials at the Wyoming Department of Insurance want to keep people informed about the law but share lawmaker’s concerns, said Stephanie McGee, the state’s deputy insurance commissioner.

“We don’t want to push somebody some place … when it could fall apart,” she said.

The comments came during a meeting of the Select Committee on Health Benefits Exchanges, which the Legislature established earlier this year after failing to meet federal deadlines to start a Wyoming-run marketplace. That failure resulted in a federal program run on the state’s behalf.

Committee members are studying whether to eventually take over some or all of the exchange. The state is planning to apply for a $1.8 million federal grant to help in that effort.

The grant includes $500,000 to educate people in Wyoming about the exchange. The program could serve some of the roughly 83,000 uninsured people in Wyoming, including people who lack coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

Outreach money could become available later this year, but committee members recommended officials hold off spending it until at least January. That would give state leaders more time to learn whether federal officials encounter additional problems implementing the Affordable Care Act.

“We have to be very careful with this federal blunder we are dealing with,” said Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Casper.

It would also allow officials to determine which populations are being overlooked by the advertising campaigns of other groups, Scott noted.

Others questioned the wisdom of waiting. Rep. Elaine Harvey, R-Lovell, has been a frequent critic of the health reform law. But she said delaying outreach over concerns about the marketplace could result in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“I think we are doing our uninsured population a disservice by not giving them an opportunity to sign up for insurance that is available to them,” she said.

More advertising could also alleviate confusion about the law, said Marguerite Herman of Project Health Care: Consumer Advocates, a Wyoming group that supports the federal reform law. A survey conducted this spring by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 40 percent of Americans were unaware the Affordable Care Act was still the law of the land.

“Information is not the enemy,” Herman said. “I think it is going to help.”

Contact Joshua Wolfson at 307-266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com. Visit http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/wolfjammies to read his blog. Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. 99Savage
    Report Abuse
    99Savage - July 24, 2013 5:34 pm
    Retiring Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), one of the principle architects of Obamacare called this a train wreck. Postpone it, defund it, repeal it. Just get rid of it. The old system with all of its faults and inequities is actually better than this disaster. Wipe the whole slate clean and start over.
  2. Kool Kat
    Report Abuse
    Kool Kat - July 24, 2013 5:15 pm
    There's only one thing standing in the way of Obamacare - Congressional funding. From what I'm hearing, this law has to be funded to work and since Congress controls those purse strings? This will be interesting to say the least.
  3. jc45
    Report Abuse
    jc45 - July 24, 2013 3:00 pm
    This is just a delaying action until Romney wins the election...oh wait...
  4. Morning Joe
    Report Abuse
    Morning Joe - July 24, 2013 11:36 am
    Look, the program is not a blunder, or a disaster and it's not going to fall apart or go away. Legislators need to get on board, get informed and pass whatever information they can get... along to us.

    The fact is, many of us should see some reduction in our current insurance costs, and the 83,000 uninsured folks deserve a shot at something other than what they have now.
  5. Marnie
    Report Abuse
    Marnie - July 24, 2013 10:52 am
    Smells a little like that lawsuit the Governor joined for $5 million dollars. Boy that did a lot for us.
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