By Mikel Chavers, CSG Associate Editor
Some states won’t have anything to do with the first wave of federal health care reform—here comes a new round of challenges to the new federal law.
Under the first phase of the new law, states must decide if they will form new high-risk insurance pools for people with pre-existing medical conditions who are unable to get private health insurance—most have been denied coverage because of expensive medical conditions. The pools would allow these folks to get health insurance coverage and would be subsidized by the federal government. So far, Georgia and Nebraska said they won’t operate the new high-risk pools, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Forbes magazine.
If states opt out of forming their own high-risk insurance pools under the law, the federal government will operate one for them. The high-risk insurance pools will operate until 2014. After that, insurance companies won’t be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
To help people pay for these so-called risky health insurance plans, the new federal health care law includes $5 billion to finance the effort.
But Georgia and Nebraska don’t think $5 billion is enough to pay the insurance premiums for these folks up until 2014.
Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine doesn’t believe the federal government will be able to fund the high-risk pools and the state will be left to shoulder the additional financial burden of federal health care reform, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Oxendine said, “I cannot commit the state of Georgia to ... a scheme which I believe the Supreme Court will hold to be unconstitutional, leads to the further expansion of the federal government, undermines the financial security of our nation, and potentially commits the state of Georgia to future financial obligations.”
Georgia and Nebraska both are already challenging the legality of the federal health care law. The states join 18 others in a multistate lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law originally filed March 23 by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.
Virginia is also challenging the law, but in its own separate case filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va.
Nebraska will also not operate a new high-risk insurance pool under the federal health care reform law. Even though the state is one of 30 states that already operate a high-risk insurance pool for patients who can’t get insurance elsewhere, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said he and the state’s top insurance official were worried federal funding wouldn’t be enough to pay all the insurance claims until January 2014, according to Forbes.