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Consumer groups demand action on health plan

November 10, 2012

DES MOINES - Consumer groups are increasing the pressure on Gov. Terry Branstad to allow Iowa to begin setting up an online marketplace for health insurance now that President Barack Obama's re-election has cleared the way for the new federal health care plan to go into effect.

Under the new Affordable Care Act, states have until next Friday to notify the federal government whether they will set up a health insurance exchange for residents to use in shopping for health plans under the new system.

Branstad was among a number of Republican governors who has delayed making preparations, hoping the law would be rolled back if Republican Mitt Romney was elected president.

Now, Branstad must decide whether Iowa will design its own health insurance marketplace or partner with the federal government. Federal officials will create an exchange for states that refuse to take any role.

"An exchange built by Iowa, for Iowa, is better than a one-size-fits-all exchange built by bureaucrats in Washington," Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said in a statement Friday. However, he said, Branstad will make no decision until he consults with a working group he formed that includes state health officials, public health representatives and the state's insurance division.

The new health insurance system, the top domestic policy achievement of Obama's presidency, is intended to make health coverage available to most of the uninsured. Many Republicans have criticized the plan as unaffordable and an undue intrusion into the private marketplace. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have taken steps to set up an online marketplace for the new system, while about 10 have decided not to do so.

Sen. Jack Hatch, a Des Moines Democrat, said he hopes Obama's re-election has forced Branstad's hand.

"I have proposed for the past two years the creation of an insurance exchange and he has refused to meet with me in a bipartisan effort to start just the discussion of what an exchange would look like," Hatch said.

Hatch, who chairs the Iowa Senate Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee, said the delay may have left Iowa without adequate time to choose plans that would best serve state residents.



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