AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- Gov. Paul LePage said Friday he has decided to let the federal government set up a health insurance exchange, rather than have the state design the program that’s part of the national Affordable Care Act.
Reiterating points he made in a letter a day earlier to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, LePage said that without knowing more details about the cost and nature of state-based exchanges, Maine could be placed in the position of serving as the administrator of a new federal health care bureaucracy over which the state has little control.
In the letter, the Republican governor wrote that the health care overhaul law championed by the Democratic president "has severe legal problems, is bad policy, and overreaches into the lives and pocketbooks of fellow Americans."
Exchanges are online marketplaces where consumers can shop for insurance, compare prices and determine which policy fits them best. President Barack Obama’s health care law says states must decide whether to set up exchanges or to let the federal government step in and do it for them. Initially, state had until Friday to decide, though Sebelius announced Thursday that the deadline was extended to Dec. 14.
Many states had put off a decision until after the Nov. 6 election, since Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had said he would move to repeal the 2010 law, which is overwhelmingly opposed by most Republican politicians.
"The ACA is full of federal mandates; as such, even a state based health insurance exchange is actually controlled by the federal government," LePage wrote. "In the end, a state exchange puts the burden onto the states and the expense onto our taxpayers, without giving the state the authority and flexibility we must have to best meet the needs of the people of Maine."
LePage is one of 21 governors attending a Republican Governors Association conference who signed a letter to Sebelius asking for six critical changes in the health care exchange requirement. But LePage made it clear that Maine’s not setting one up.
"I’m not lifting a finger," LePage told Bloomberg News at the RGA meeting in Las Vegas. "We’re not going to get involved. We’re going to let Mr. Obama do a federal exchange. It’s his bill."