Cuomo Acts to Provide Affordable Health Care
Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 42 to create New York’s health insurance exchange, a requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama in 2010. A key section of the landmark legislation is the American Health Benefit Exchanges program, which requires the creation of a health insurance exchange in all 50 states; the exchanges are designed to help consumers navigate the private insurance system. Currently, 15 states (including New York) have established an exchange, 19 states are still studying their options, and 14 states have either not tackled the issue yet or have decided not to create an exchange at all (ultimately, the federal government will step in and create a health insurance exchange in the states that don’t create their own).
The Republican-dominated New York State Senate refused to pass legislation to create a health insurance exchange last fall, which meant that New York State lost out on the chance to receive millions of federal dollars intended to help with the creation of exchanges. Next, Gov. Cuomo had hoped to include the health insurance exchange in the budget negotiations that just concluded in the state legislature, but after the state Senate balked at the idea of implementing any part of the health care legislation in the state, he ultimately had to wield his executive power.
States have several approaches they can choose from when setting up their exchange, as evidenced by legislative and executive attempts currently underway, but they are running out of time under the timetable outlined by the ACA. States have until January 1, 2013, to create an exchange, which must be fully operational by January 1, 2014. If a state does not have an exchange certified by the Department of Health and Human Services by January 2013, the federal government assumes responsibility for setting it up.
The refusal of state legislatures to act on this important provision of the ACA is cause for concern. Some states have indicated that they may wait to act until after June 2012 (when the Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision in the cases focused on the ACA), but states that wait until then could find limited legislative options available, given the busy nature of state legislative calendars.
The Reform Movement supports the Affordable Care Act and proudly signed on to two briefs for the Supreme Court: one arguing for the constitutionality of the individual mandate and another arguing in favor of the law’s expansion of Medicaid, which helps more low-income individuals get the health care they deserve. Reform Jewish Voice of New York State has also been supportive of the ACA and believes that New York state must take the next step in providing access to quality, affordable health care coverage to all New Yorkers in need. Gov. Cuomo should be commended for taking this compassionate and common-sense stance by creating New York’s health insurance exchange.