State lawmakers today put off a key vote on whether to accept Federal funds meant to support a partnership health exchange.
Earlier this month, the Feds awarded the state’s Insurance Department $5.4 million to pay for implementation of the Consumer Assistance portion of the new health exchange marketplace.
But on an 8-2 vote, members of the Joint Fiscal Committee tabled the motion, effectively delaying use of the portion of funds allocated for this fiscal year, roughly $340,000.
They cited concerns over transparency and question if the Department even had permission to apply for the funds.
“It seems to me exceptionally clear that only with a prior approval of the Health Care Oversight Committee can you apply for any public funds or grants,” says Senator Andy Sanborn.
He contends that the Insurance Department never obtained permission from the Health Care Oversight Committee, which Sanborn also sits upon.
After the hearing, Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny sought to clarify the grant application.
“We believe that we followed what the statute says right down the line. If anyone on the Legislature thinks differently and wants us to do something differently, so long as it is within the bounds of the law, we’ll do it.”
As part of the Affordable Care Act, the state’s partnership health exchange consists of two parts: the Plan Management piece, which gives the state regulation of the health insurance plans sold in the new marketplace.
The second piece, the Consumer Assistance portion, provides resources to help shoppers use the new exchanges. ‘In-person assisters’ will be trained to work with uninsured residents that may not fully understand the law or their options. The state would regulate their conduct.
If the state doesn’t accept the money, the Federal government will take on that assistance role in the form of ‘navigators’.