Gov. Gary Herbert wants answers about federal health insurance exchange

Published: Monday, Nov. 19 2012 11:54 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert sent a list of questions Monday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that he wants answered before considering whether Utah would join the federal health insurance exchange.

"Secretary, as a former governor yourself, surely you understand my earnest desire to make decisions in my state’s best interest based on solid data and facts," the governor wrote. "Without answers, it will be impossible to determine the best outcome for Utah’s taxpayers, families and small businesses.

In the letter Herbert said he intends to maintain Utah's version of the health insurance exchange, though that could change depending on Sebelius' answers to the questions. Utah has run its own program since 2009.

The insurance exchanges, mandated under the Affordable Care Act commonly known as Obamacare, can be established by the states or left up to the federal government to run.

The Obama administration extended last Friday's deadline for a decision on joining the federal exchange to Dec. 14.

"While I appreciate the extension of the federal deadline for states to determine an appropriate course regarding an insurance exchange, there remain far too many unanswered questions about the federal alternative," Herbert wrote.

In his letter, the governor lists 10 main questions along with about 20 follow-up questions.

Questions include: "How much will it cost the state to participate in a federal exchange, including the government, taxpayers, and the private sector?" and "What is the process to ensure that a Federal Exchange accurately incorporates all state-specific procedures and laws?"

Republican leaders in the Utah Legislature are pressuring Herbert to not get involved in the Democratic president's program. In a letter to the governor, the leaders said Utah should not spend any time or resources on the exchange.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com Twitter: dennisromboy

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