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Daniels seeks input on health exchanges

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By Lesley Weidenbener

Republican Mike Pence said Tuesday that Indiana should not act to set up a state-operated health care exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Pence's comments come after Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels sent letters to Pence, Democrat John Gregg, and Libertarian Rupert Boneham asking for their opinions regarding whether the state should operate its own exchange, which is a system meant to foster an affordable environment for individuals to buy coverage.

If the state does not take on the exchange, federal officials will step in to create one.

"There is too much uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act for Indiana to even consider implementing our own exchange," Pence said in a statement. "The national debate is far from over and the regulatory, fiscal and legal implications have the potential to cost Hoosier taxpayers and employers millions."

Daniels has estimated that creating an exchange could cost Indiana at least $50 million annually.

Daniels was seeking input from the candidates because while initial decisions about the exchange must be made yet this year, the program wouldn't be implemented until the next governor takes office.

The health insurance exchanges are a key part of the federal law and are meant to foster an affordable environment for individuals to buy coverage.

Daniels must tell federal authorities whether the state will create an exchange, leave the job to the federal government or create a hybrid partnership by Nov. 16, just weeks before Daniels will turn the governor's office over to a successor.

The state must also select an Essential Health Benefits package that will be offered in small and individual group markets, even if the state doesn't move forward with its own exchange. The state must make that decision by Sept. 30.

Pence and Boneham met with Daniels' staff last week to talk about the issue.

John Gregg's spokesman, Daniel Altman, said that although a meeting has yet to take place, the Democrat looks forward "to talking with Gov. Daniels about how to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for all Hoosiers."

The health care law originally mandated states to expand Medicaid coverage to more people, but a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision made the expansion optional. Daniels has expressed concern that an expansion might be so expensive that it would crowd out funding for education and other programs, but the Medicaid decision will be made after he leaves office.

Lesley Weidenbener is managing editor of The Statehouse File, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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