Morning Examiner: Utah vs Obamacare

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

President Obama may have won reelection earlier this month, but the fight over his signature domestic accomplishment, Obamacare, is just beginning. Yesterday the Health and Human Services administration dropped 333 pages of new regulations dictating how states must implement Obamacare

The new regulations set price controls on how much insurers are allowed to charge different patients for insurance and how much consumers will be allowed to pay for their own health care out of pocket. The regulations also set up ten broad categories of “essential health benefits” that must be covered by every health insurance plan. But even these rules will only be good through 2015, at which time the Obama administration maintains the power to change them completely at will.

Considering how little real autonomy the new Obamacare regulations offer states, it is not surprising that almost 20 states have announced they will not bother setting up Obamacare-compliant health care exchanges. Those states not playing along with Obamacare’s state-flexibility charade so far are: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Utah is the state to watch in this group. That’s because it already had a state-based exchange set up before Obamacare became law. Problem is, while the Utah exchange is popular among Utahns, it is not compliant with many of Obamacare’s federal mandates. Not only does it not comply with Obamacare’s “essential benefit” requirements, but it also works off of a defined contribution model (where employers pay a set amount for each worker’s health insurance) that would be illegal under Obamacare.

In a letter to HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius Monday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wrote, “I remain firmly convinced that meaningful healthcare reform is most effective when developed and implemented at the state level. … The best course for Utah is to preserve all options and flexibility for state policy makers. However, while I presently intend to maintain course with Utah’s version of a health insurance exchange, this decision could change as we receive more information and answers to critical questions.”

How Obama reacts to Utah’s refusal to comply with Obamacare exchange regulations will tell us a lot about how the law will be implemented. But even if Obama gives in to Utah and other conservative states initially, unless the underlying law is changed, Obama could revoke that flexibility at any time. It’s hard to see how any governor would want to take that risk.

From The Washington Examiner
Examiner Editorial: For real fairness, end deduction for state and local taxes
Michael Barone: Democrats have edge, but presidency still in play
Tim Carney: Obamacare helps big hospitals, kills small practices, drives up costs
Joel Gehrke: Rand Paul says he’s ‘interested’ in 2016 presidential run
Steve Contorno: Sen. Mark Warner will not run for Virginia governor
Susan Ferrechio: Embattled Holder staying on as attorney general
Rachel Baye: Maryland faces years of hefty budget gaps

In Other News
CBS News, Office of the DNI cut “al Qaeda” reference from Benghazi talking points: CBS News has learned that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) cut specific references to “al Qaeda” and “terrorism” from the unclassified talking points given to Ambassador Susan Rice on the Benghazi consulate attack – with the agreement of the CIA and FBI. The White House or State Department did not make those changes.
The New York Times, U.S. Seeks Truce on Gaza as Enemies Step Up Attacks: On the deadliest day of fighting in the week-old conflict, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived hurriedly in Jerusalem and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to push for a truce. She was due in Cairo on Wednesday to consult with Egyptian officials in contact with Hamas.
The Los Angeles Times, Administration affirms key mandates of healthcare law: The Obama administration reaffirmed key requirements of the new healthcare law Tuesday, setting out how insurance companies will cover nearly all Americans, even if they are already ill, and provide plans with minimum benefits.
The Washington Post, Democrats push to redeploy Obama’s voter database: Democrats are pressing to expand and redeploy the most sophisticated voter list in history, beginning with next year’s gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey and extending to campaigns for years to come.
Des Moines Register, Branstad bails out of straw poll: Iowa Gov. Terry Branst adadded his voice to those saying it’s time to give the Iowa Straw Poll the hatchet.
Salt Lake City Tribune, Matheson holds on to win by whisker: Rep. Jim Matheson held onto a narrow 768-vote victory over Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love in Utah’s 4th Congressional District as final returns were announced Tuesday, just short of what was needed for recount.

Righty Playbook
The Wall Street Journal names Chief Justice John Roberts the Liberal Man of the Year.
At The Corner, Patrick Brennan notes that President Obama gave an almost identical answer to an almost identical question as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., gave GQ on the age of the Earth.
Red State‘s Erick Erickson details his belief in the Bible.

Lefty PLaybook
The American Prospect attacks Wal-Mart for not paying their employees enough.
Matthew Yglesias attacks Papa John’s for not paying their employees enough.
The Washington Post‘s Suzy Khimm notes that Obama voters only like the idea of fixing entitlements … not actually fixing them.

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