Pa. will miss health-exchange deadline

    As part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, states have the option to run their own health-insurance exchanges — online clearing houses where people can shop for the best deal.

    But Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Mike Consedine says the state is opting to miss an upcoming deadline.

    “We just don’t have the information we need right now to make smart decisions on behalf of Pennsylvanians,” Consedine said, adding that the state is taking a “wait-and-see approach.”

    The blueprint for a state-run exchange is due Nov. 16. The exchanges are supposed to be operational by January 2014.

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    In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie is putting off a decision until after the presidential election, since GOP nominee Mitt Romney has said he plans to repeal the health law.

    Consedine says the Corbett administration simply is acting in Pennsylvania’s best interest.

    “I don’t play politics when it comes to people’s lives, and that’s essentially what we’re talking about here with regard to health insurance,” Consedine said. “If we set up an exchange that’s not ready to go, that’s poorly operated, that has consequences for people — and that’s just not a risk we’re willing to take at this point.”

    Holding off means the Pennsylvania exchange will likely be run by the federal government.

    The director of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project, which connects the state’s uninsured with publicly funded health programs, says he understands the difficulty in setting up the exchange.

    Still, Laval Miller-Wilson said he’s “disappointed” it won’t be run by the state.

    “We’re not quite sure that the federally operated exchange will be as in tune with the state structure, the state market and, more importantly, the state consumers,” said Miller-Wilson.

    The state Insurance Department initially estimated that as many as 2 million Pennsylvanians would likely buy health coverage using the exchange. Other estimates have since put that number much lower.

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