At the annual Kentucky Chamber Policy Conference last month, Sen. Tom Buford, Rep. Tom Burch and Dr. Rex Cowdry with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) discussed health insurance exchanges and other issues the legislature will confront during the 2012 session. Dr. Cowdry said Small Business Health Options Programs (or “SHOP Exchanges”) in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will give employers and employees more choice and flexibility in choosing health care plans, allowing employers to offer a defined contribution plan to employees (similar to a 401K) and plan portability for employees changing jobs. Because of differing insurance regulations and demographics, HHS would prefer states to operate their own exchange and have attempted to give state maximum flexibility through ACA regulations. States need to take action to develop an exchange in 2012 to ensure HHS’ approval of their plan by January 1, 2013. Exchanges are set to operate on January 1, 2014.
Sen. Buford was critical of the ACA, saying it will increase costs for employers, grow government and cost billions of dollars to implement. He does not agree with the individual or employer mandates and is hopeful the Supreme Court will strike down the law. Sen. Buford said he was not necessarily opposed to state operating its own exchange, but favors a federal exchange. Rep. Burch disagreed, saying the state should operate its own exchange and take up legislation this session. Other issues Rep. Burch believes the legislature should address include the state’s prescription drug abuse problem, the transparency of child services and a statewide smoking policy that prohibits smoking in public places. Despite early complaints from some providers and pharmacists, both legislators believe managed care companies need more time to implement the governor’s managed care plan before the legislature intervenes.