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Obama gives states more time on health exchanges

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Politics,Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

President Obama backed down Thursday from a deadline for states to declare how they will comply with a critical portion of federal health care reforms after Republican governors begged for more time.

Obama's administration is giving states until Dec. 14 to decide whether they will build their own exchanges for uninsured residents to buy health insurance, or rely on the federal government to do it for them. Previously, states had until Friday to make a decision, but Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a letter to the president on Wednesday it was too quick of a turnaround.

McDonnell and Jindal led the Republican charge to delay complying with the law until after the Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act. When the high court upheld the law, the pair then held out hope that Republicans would win the White House and Congress and repeal it, but that didn't happen.

There is a federally mandated deadline of Jan. 1 to approve all 50 state plans, and the feds now have a shorter window to do so.

"States have and will continue to be partners in implementing the health care law and we are committed to providing states with the flexibility, resources and time they need to deliver the benefits of the health care law to the American people," U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a letter to McDonnell and Jindal.

McDonnell and Jindal also sent the president a list of several dozen questions they had about the exchanges as well as the expansion of Medicaid also in the reforms. Sebelius promised answers in the coming days and weeks.

"With the extension our position remains the same. If we had to make a decision today we would choose to default to the federal exchange, due to the many questions still left unanswered by Washington," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. "Over the next month we will continue to evaluate the best course of option for Virginia's consumers, and hopefully do so aided by new and thorough information from the Obama Administration."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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