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States acquiesce to new health care law



Date published: 11/16/2012

BY RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR

Associated Press

WASHINGTON

--From the South to the heartland, cracks are appearing in the once-solid wall of Republican resistance to President Barack Obama's health care law.

Ahead of a federal deadline Friday for states to declare their intentions, Associated Press reporters interviewed governors and state officials around the country, finding surprising openness to the changes in some cases. Opposition persists in others, and there is a widespread, urgent desire for answers on key unresolved details.

The law that Republicans have derided as "Obamacare" was devised in Washington, but it's in the states that Americans will find out if it works, delivering promised coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people.

States have a major role to play in two of the overhaul's main components: new online insurance markets for individuals and small businesses to shop for subsidized private coverage, and an expanded Medicaid program for low-income people.

Friday is the day states must declare if they'll build the new insurance markets, called exchanges, or let Washington do it for them. States can also opt for a partnership with the feds to run their exchanges, and they have until February to decide on that option.

Despite signs of movement toward going along with implementation of the overhaul, some major Republican-led states are holding fast.

"Adding more people to an already sinking ship with money that is either being borrowed from China or coming out of taxpayers' pockets is bad policy and bad for Texans," said Catherine Frazier, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry. Twenty-seven percent of that state's residents are uninsured, the largest percentage for any state.

Many Republican state officials complain that the Obama administration simply hasn't given them enough information.

Virginia, a Republican-led state that voted for Obama on Nov. 6 and also elected a Democratic U.S. senator, is among those defaulting to Washington. But a spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell said things may change.

"This is not a final decision," said Jeff Caldwell. "The fact is, states still need far more information before any final decisions can be made on behalf of Virginia's taxpayers." The final call, he added, belongs to the state Legislature.