COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST
BY CARRIE GHOSE
U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Columbus, told an Ohio Association of Health Underwriters-sponsored symposium that the state likely will set up an insurance exchange.
There’s still a federal health reform law in place, despite what Ohio voters say, and about 300 policymakers and health industry leaders gathered in downtown Columbus Thursday to talk about getting ready to implement it.
The Ohio Association of Health Underwriters, the trade group for agents and brokers, sponsored the symposium to come up with recommendations for Ohio on creating a health insurance exchange, the online comparison and shopping tool that’s supposed to be taking shape by 2013 under the law.
“The passage of Issue 3 just raises more questions than it answers,” said the group’s legislative chairman, Denny Recker.
The discussion was complicated by Tuesday’s 2-to-1 passage of the constitutional amendment banning any federal, state or local compulsion to participate in a “health-care system,” which won’t stop the federal Affordable Care Act but will have consequences for future state legislation.
“The most astounding thing that happened this Election Day was Issue 3,” U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Columbus, told the group to kick off the day.
Despite the massive pro-union and likely pro-Democrat turnout to defeat the Issue 2 referendum on curtailing public employee bargaining rights, he said, Issue 3 was passed by an even greater margin than Issue 2 was defeated.
“The American people and the people of Ohio still have great concern over a government takeover of their insurance,” Stivers said, repeating a long-since debunked rap on the law.
Stivers said his conversations with Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who heads the state Department of Insurance, leads him to believe the department will outline a way for Ohio to set up an exchange despite her vehement opposition to the federal law and the costs of running an exchange. If Ohio does not act, the feds will run an exchange for it.
The agents group, unsurprisingly, thinks insurance agents and brokers should be part of an exchange system rather than leaving consumers to click their way through complicated proposals solo. They think there’s slim chance of that happening in a federally run exchange.
“I’m glad to hear, I think, Ohio is going to take a serious look at making sure agents are included,” Stivers told the group.
The outcome of the vote could influence how state lawmakers approach the idea of an exchange, said Amy Rohling McGee, president of the Health Policy Institute of Ohio.
“It comes down to how people perceive what that vote was really about,” she said.
Meanwhile, federal agencies are still writing voluminous rules to implement the law. “It is difficult to make these decisions without fully knowing what the playing field will look like,” she said.