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Gov. Corbett Sees No Rush to Open Health Care Exchange

President Obama’s re-election means the implementation Affordable Care Act will move forward, but Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett says he sees no reason to rush to implement one of its centerpieces: a health care exchange in Pennsylvania.  U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told governors Thursday evening that the department is extending the deadline to declare their intentions from Friday to Dec. 14.

Governors across the country still mulling whether to plan their own health care marketplaces or turn the process over to the feds recently received an extension. They now have until mid-December to submit a so-called blueprint for how the federally-mandated health care exchanges will work – and whether it will be planned by the state, the Department of Health and Human Services, or both as partners.

Corbett hasn’t made a decision as far as Pennsylvania’s concerned, and he hardly considers the new December 14 date a deadline. After all, the commonwealth could still switch to a state-run exchange even if it were to begin under federal control.

“We can always opt in later,” Corbett said at an unrelated event Monday. “Let them start a program and then we can opt in later. So I’m keeping my options open at the moment. This is still November. We haven’t made a decision.”

Several Republican governors have announced they’ll forego the state-run exchange. Corbett is heading to the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association this week in Las Vegas. He said while there, he’ll compare notes with his colleagues in other states.

Corbett said he’s unhappy that his administration and the Republican Governors Association have been unable to get answers to questions they submit to DHHS.

“So what’s happening is they want us to buy a program without giving us the detail to the program, as to how it’s going to work,” he said. He’s also wary of the cost of setting up an exchange.

"Nothing in government is free, and I want to drive that home,” Corbett said. The federal government has awarded a grant to Pennsylvania for exchange planning costs, and has promised federal funding for exchange-related costs until 2015, one year after the exchanges are scheduled to be fully operational. After that, all exchanges must be self-funded.

“We are still looking at it very closely,” Corbett said. “I will say that it is very, very, very expensive to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.”

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.