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It’s not often that states turn their back on money from Washington, but at least two states may say no thanks to federal grants to implement the new federal health-care law.
In February the federal Department of Health and Human Services selected seven states to get $240 million in demonstration grants this year to kick start the health-care plan. But Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin announced last week that the Sooner State will decline $54.6 million from the feds to establish new insurance exchanges.
And as early as this week the New Hampshire state house is expected to pass a bill rejecting $666,000 the feds bequeathed to that state to start up exchanges. Two other grant recipients—Kansas and Wisconsin—may also turn down the funds as well as request Medicaid waivers to design their own health-care law for low-income residents. Oklahoma faces a $500 million budget shortfall and at first accepted the federal health dollars. But Oklahoma citizens approved a ballot initiative last year to block implementation of the new law and its nearly 2,000 pages of rules and mandates. Oklahoma is also among the nearly 30 states that have filed a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality. State officials fear that taking even one dollar of the money would run the risk of the federal government running health care in Oklahoma.
So now the Sooners are devising their own insurance plan to comply with the ObamaCare mandate that every state create an insurance exchange by 2013. The Oklahoma plan is to create an insurance “network” that would increase portability of private employer health plans, increase the range of choices of insurance coverage (including high deductible health-savings account plans), allow workers and small employers to use pre-tax dollars for health coverage, and subsidize the uninsured to purchase an insurance plan. “We think that by relying on markets, we can do this at a much lower cost to the state than the ObamaCare plan,” Governor Fallin says.
Republicans who control both houses in the New Hampshire legislature have reached the same conclusion. House Speaker William O’Brien wants to return the federal money to lower the federal deficit. That’s popular in the first Presidential primary state, where polls are finding that voters disapprove of the law by nearly a two to one margin.
Democratic Governor John Lynch may veto the bill, but the political trend shows that the President’s health reform is not getting any more popular with age, despite Democratic and media predictions. The states are concluding that the more they get to know about ObamaCare, the less they think they can afford it.