In Oklahoma, Another Governor Decides Against PPACA Exchange

Published May 31, 2016

Good news from Oklahoma, where Gov. Mary Fallin decided against the deployment of a state health care exchange. The Washington Times reports:

Under pressure from conservatives, the Republican governor declined a $54 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in April, two months after she had initially accepted the money to help the state set up an exchange mandated under Mr. Obama’s signature health care law. The action, she said at the time, would allow the state to bypass a federal exchange while setting up a network governed chiefly by the private sector.

It was hard to reject such a large sum of money, Mrs. Fallin said in an interview this week with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. But the former congresswoman who became her state’s first female chief executive in January, said she was deeply skeptical that the administration would grant the promised flexibility in setting up exchanges.

“You just told us you want us to have some leeway to develop innovative systems, but yet you’re tying our hands,” she said, recounting an early meeting with administration officials on implementing the new law. “In the end, they’re going to have specific things we have to meet.”

Mrs. Fallin and dozens of fellow GOP governors are holding out hope that the Supreme Court will derail the law sometime next year. The court is likely to hear cases filed by nearly 30 states, including Oklahoma, challenging the law and in particular the mandate on individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.

Fallin joins a list which includes Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, Florida’s Rick Scott, Texas’s Rick Perry and New Mexico’s Susana Martinez in deciding against an exchange within PPACA. This decision comes in the context of new revelations that, given there is no allowance for funding of a federally-run exchange within the law, the likelihood of a federal takeover – as feared by some state administrators – is quite low. Indeed, the only way for the feds to have a real say in the state level exchange is to set one up in the first place, which function as delivery mechanisms for bureaucratic regulations to each state’s health care marketplace.

For more on this critical decision facing the states, read my policy brief on the subject.