RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – President Obama's Healthcare Reform Law calls for states to set up an exchange, a database where consumers and small businesses could compare costs and benefits of qualifying health insurance options. It's meant to create competition and drive prices down.
Delegate Jennifer McClellan of Richmond is among a handful of legislators proposing bills to start setting up Virginia's exchange now.
"The federal government has set a deadline by which the state's need to have their exchanges at least begun or established, otherwise the federal government will establish an exchange, I think everybody agrees its better for Virginia to have its own exchange," McClellan said.
But Secretary of Health and Human Services Bill Hazel joins the governor in saying Virginia should wait until the Supreme Court hears state challenges to the Healthcare Reform Law. Hazel says guidelines for an exchange are unclear.
"We can't yet know if a plan is to be covered, we can't yet know how much it's going to cost, it's hard to know how to build the exchange," said Hazel.
But McClellan says forming the exchange can't wait. The law says it must be nearly complete by next year.
"The federal government has a pot of money they will give to states that set up their own exchange and if we wait too long we risk losing out on the that money," McClellan said.
"See we disagree with that. We disagree with that. We got a document yesterday that shows many states have gotten millions of dollars without any legislation and the fact is we have already made the commitment," Hazel added.
26 states have challenged the healthcare reform law. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the matter this year. Virginia's lawsuit was dismissed on the grounds that the state doesn't have legal standing to file its complaint. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is appealing.