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Deadline Nears For PA-Run Health Insurance Exchange

State Senate Democrats are making one last, largely symbolic effort to get the governor to put Pennsylvania's health care exchange firmly in state regulators'’ hands.   Governor Corbett has said even if the exchange isn'’t run by the state from the outset, he can always opt to switch from a federally-run exchange to one that is overseen by the commonwealth. 

Senator Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia), a member of the Banking and Insurance Committee, acknowledged that's an option.

"I think it'’s better to have that state control at the earliest point in time but, yes, under Governor Corbett’'s perceived plan right now, it appears he'’s going to wait until after the deadline and allow the federal government to set up an exchange," Stack said.  

The senator said making the exchange state-run would heed the advice of insurers and health care providers.

"It seems to me that the governor has to reach acceptance that Obamacare is not going to be repealed," said Stack.  "It may be improved but it'’s not going to be repealed and so this is happening.

The state accepted a $33 million federal grant to cover the costs of planning for the health care exchange. "He’'s accepted the money, he just has not moved forward to set up that health exchange.  So you can'’t have it both ways," said Stack.

In 2011, Pennsylvania's insurance commissioner said he believed the state would do a much better job of regulating health insurance than the federal government. A spokeswoman for the Insurance Department says that’'s still true based on research and talks with stakeholders. But she says the federal government has only this week begun to answer the commonwealth’'s questions about how it would have to build and manage the exchange.

The deadline to decide is Friday.  The health care exchanges, essentially state-specific online marketplaces to buy healthcare insurance, will be operational by 2014.