Gov. Bob McDonnell won’t call the General Assembly into a special session to implement provisions of the federal health care overhaul, the administration confirmed today.
“Based on events still to come, and ongoing changes in guidance from the federal government regarding the timeline for any state action, the governor does not believe there is a need to call a special session,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said late this afternoon.
McDonnell condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s Thursday decision upholding the federal health care law and said Virginia would not rush to implement to key provisions that are left to the states. Among other things, the state must decide whether to set up an exchange where uninsured individuals and small businesses could shop for insurance coverage, or let the federal government operate one instead.
States face a Nov. 16 deadline to apply for certification of exchanges that would begin to operate in 2014, but an official with the Department of Health and Human Services said today that states will have additional opportunities to apply. The Obama administration also has added multiple deadlines for states to apply for federal grants to establish state-based exchanges.
“Our administration has the authority and resources to continue to work internally to ensure that the commonwealth is prepared for any actions that must be taken in the months ahead,” Martin said. “To call a special session now, when there is no urgent deadline and when issues dealing with exchanges can be handled, if necessary, during a regular session of the General Assembly, would be an unnecessary usage of limited taxpayer dollars.”
McDonnell said he hopes Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney defeats President Barack Obama this fall and repeals the health care law. In the meantime, McDonnell said Thursday, Obama’s administration has not provided guidance on how a federal exchange would be designed and implemented if the state chooses not to create its own.
McDonnell and the General Assembly decided earlier this year to delay action on creating an exchange. Some legislators and insurance providers have warned that Virginia could risk having the federal government design an exchange for Virginia if the state fails to act quickly.
But the Obama administration indicated today that states will be given some flexibility.
“It’s important. . . to remember that should a state either not be ready (in November), or not ready to actually apply for certification as a state-based exchange, that they can do so in the future,” said Mike Hash, interim director for HHS’ Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, in a conference call this afternoon.
“So even though we have a schedule with respect to 2014, that’s clearly not the last opportunity that states will have either to establish their own exchanges or work with us in a partnership arrangement,” Hash said.
The Obama administration also announced today that additional funds will be available to states to help them implement the exchanges. States will have 10 additional opportunities to apply for funding to establish a state-based exchange, a state partnership exchange, or to prepare state systems for a federally-run exchange. All awards will be made by Dec. 31, 2014.
“This new funding opportunity will give states the resources they need to establish affordable insurance exchanges and ensure Americans are no longer on their own when shopping for insurance,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
– Michael Sluss