Gov. Tom Corbett’s acceptance of federally run health insurance exchange could make it harder to sign up, advocate says

(PennLive) Gov. Tom Corbett’s acceptance of a federally run health insurance exchange might make it harder for people to sign up for subsidized health insurance scheduled to become available Jan. 1, a national advocate said.

Ron Pollack, the executive director of Families USA, which supports the Affordable Care Act, said relying on the federal government will cost Pennsylvania grant money toward operating the exchange.

That money could have funded workers to help people sign up for coverage via the exchange, which will provide an online marketplace for people to compare health care plans and enroll, he said.

Gov. Tom Corbett speaks to the Patriot-News Editorial Board.

“Because there is less grant money in the states where the federal government is running these marketplaces, there will be fewer such helpers on the ground,” Pollack said. “It doesn’t mean there won’t be any, but there will be fewer … That’s a matter of concern.”

In December, Corbett informed federal officials he’ll let the federal government run the exchange. He said federalofficials had failed to sufficiently answer many questions about cost and other details.

“Health care reform is too important to be achieved through haphazard planning,” Corbett said, according to the Associated Press. “Pennsylvania taxpayers and businesses deserve more. They deserve informed decision making and a strong plan that responsibly uses taxpayer dollars.”

Corbett also turned down the opportunity to run an exchange in partnership with the federal government. Pennsylvania can later choose to run its own exchange.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 18 states will run their own exchange,seven will work in partnership with the federal government, and 26 will rely on a federally-run exchange.

The Pennsylvania exchange is scheduled to go online Oct. 1. It will enable people to compare government-approved health insurance plans and enroll in a plan.

It also will connect them with tax credits which will help them afford the coverage. The exchange is intended for uninsured people who don’t have access to health insurance at work. Beginning in 2014, most people will be required to have health insurance or pay a fine.

The federal help will be available to individuals and families earning up to $94,200 for a family of four. The size of the subsidy will vary based on income. For example, someone at the lowest end would be expected to pay 3.3 percent of their income toward the “reference plan” available though the exchange. A family at the highest end would be expected to pay 9.5 percent.

Families USA said this week that 76,000 people in five Harriburg-area counties will qualify to receive health insurance through an exchange. Statewide, 896,000 Pennsylvanians will be eligible, the organization said.