ObamaCare: To Be – Or Not To Be – in Utah?

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On December 6, I asked citizens to share their comments on what Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert should tell the Federal government about whether or not it will accept ObamaCare before the pending deadline on December 14th.

Further comments, including examples of your own experiences with the health care system and how it should be reformed, have been enormously helpful. I plan to share them with Governor Herbert’s office. Please continue to share. If you have not yet received this request, your comments are critically important as I will be sharing them with the Governor’s office.

Meanwhile, here is an excellent short video followed by a brief article about the insurance exchange system and why Utah and other states must opt out of ObamaCare and its exchange, the vehicle for implementation.  To view video, click on MORE…


Here’s the article on why states should say no to the exchanges.

I apologize for this long post, but this is a critical issue at a critical point in the decision-making.

Keep in mind that former Utah Governor Huntsman, a more liberal governor, backed Utah’s exchange. One of Utah’s largest insurance moguls – former Governor and Secretary of HHS Mike Leavitt – also supports Utah’s exchange.

Former State Representative and House Speaker David Clark, a more moderate member of the legislature, succeeded in getting it passed after three years of legislative debate, using the argument that Utah needed to get its own “better” version in place before the Federal government told Utah what to do.

Now, since the Supreme Court decision to uphold the individual mandate, the one advantage that Utah touted – that is is optional – is in question as there is nothing optional about a federal mandate. Since the Court upheld the individual mandate, everything has changed. The Court decision gave the Obama Administration the much-needed oxygen to keep ObamaCare on life support, aided by the Democratic controlled Senate.

Utah’s Exchange Explained

So what exactly is the Utah exchange? Simplified, it’s a very expensive web portal that promotes the four large insurance providers that give people a comparison of plans and costs.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration won at the Supreme Court using oral arguments showing how the state exchange is the essential element to implementing ACA (ObamaCare).

In other words, under ObamaCare, the Federal government will once again choose the winners and losers in the private market.

Fortunately, most insurance companies understand how their free market – and our choices – will be limited and compromised. As a result, several providers have dropped out, and only a few Utah companies are participating.

To make matters worse, earlier this fall the Utah exchange website was hacked and security was breached. Bottom line: It’s simply not working.

The questions are: Why do people need state government to do what private insurance brokers already do: compare products and recommend the best choices for their clients? Those brokers are exiting the profession in droves now because they will be out of business if ACA is implemented.

The Trouble with Mandates

Will the Federal government reject Utah’s exchange? Experience has shown that if a state receives federal money, it must comply. Already Arizona has learned that the Federal government now plans to manage, monitor and control the Arizona exchange.

Florida led the way in refusing to participate in the exchanges, followed by Louisiana, Wisconsin and New Hampshire (with a Democratic governor). Thirty-five more states are in revolt, abstaining from ACA altogether.

From my personal conversations with Governor Hebert, he believes Utah’s exchange will be above board because it’s “market-driven.” (Frankly, that’s in part why it’s failing-the private market doesn’t want it – or need it.) Although it’s one of two “optional” plans among only 13 states who have them, experience has shown that government “options” always come with strings attached.

Governor Herbert has also said that the label “exchange” now has such a bad name Utah’s exchange needs a name change. The original exchange website www.exchange.utah.gov is now forwarding to www.AvenueH..com (I can’t help myself on that one: Could that be “Avenue Health” or “Avenue Herbert,” or “Avenue Huntsman?” )

Another Question: How Much Does This Cost?

It is imperative for Utah’s fiscal stability to take this opportunity to join the other states leading out in standing down the Federal government, to change course and to step away from the state exchanges because of costs alone.

With the required Medicaid expansion associated with ACA, it is anticipated that the states will be left with billions in unfunded mandates by 2017. Meanwhile, since 2010 Utah has fallen from “best-managed state in the nation” to fourth place, based on its debt, which has mounted since then to nearly $20 billion. Utah is already spending about $3 billion more annually than it brings in.

North Dakota is now “best managed.” (Utah needs its land back so it can develop resources as ND is doing, but that’s another story.)

Arizona and other exchange states are already experiencing the high costs, and it’s frightening. Arizona’s exchange is already costing $29.5 million annually, and is projected to get as high as $40 million/year by 2015.

Few realize that the Federal government’s start-up (stimulus) funding of these exchanges will disappear in 2015, leaving the states with another unfunded Federal mandate (liability) resembling Medicaid – on steroids.

From experience we know how the Federal government will respond when given an inch: it will take the mile.

Please continue to contribute your views on how Utah should respond, so I can share them with the governor’s office early next week. Thank you!