After Election, McDonnell Declines to Set Up Health Insurance Exchange

After Election, McDonnell Declines to Set Up Health Insurance Exchange
December 7, 2012

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says it’s going to be up to the federal government to bring President Obama’s health care law and its insurance exchanges to Virginia, because McDonnell’s not going to do it for them.

Facing the deadline for submitting plans for a health-insurance exchange to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Republican McDonnell laid the issue at the feet of the feds.

“I don’t want to buy a pig in a poke for the taxpayers of Virginia,” McDonnell told reporters at a press conference.

Conservative groups hailed McDonnell’s stance, which marks a shift from his prior position. In April 2012 he had indicated support for House Bill 2434, which called for Virginia to move forward with a state exchange, a virtual marketplace in which people can purchase taxpayer subsidized health insurance coverage from government-vetted insurers. The bill was ultimately shelved in the face of opposition from Tea Party groups.

Activists Welcome Shift

McDonnell’s clear stance surprised even conservative advocates such as Americans for Prosperity Virginia State Director Audrey Jackson. Jackson and tea party activists see the governor’s path as a potentially winning strategy for blocking much of Obamacare.

“Federal exchanges have to be funded through the federal government, and since those funding bills have to go through Congress, they’re not going to be funded,” Jackson predicted.

That, at least, is the hope for Jackson and other conservative groups like AFP. While states have to fund exchanges they set up to the tune of roughly $50 million to $100 million per year per state, the federal government is responsible for funding federal exchanges, notes Mark Daugherty, chairman of the Federation of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots.

“Given the financial status of the federal government with the high debt levels and the deficits, I think that casts doubt on the ability of the government to expand the bureaucracy further,” said Daugherty.

AFP State Policy Manager Nicole Kaeding said her group and other Tea Party groups will be working to make sure the Virginia legislature doesn’t try to push a state exchange through when it reconvenes in January.

“We’re working hard to make sure that outcome is met,” said Kaeding. “And we would love to even see them proactively pass a piece of legislation saying that they will not create an exchange.”

Kathryn Watson (katie@watchdogvirginia.org) writes for Virginia Watchdog.