McDonnell will wait on health benefits exchange

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Now that the health care law has been deemed constitutional, states across America need to prepare for its continued implementation. But that's already leading to battles here in Virginia.

The Affordable Care Act requires each state to create a health benefits exchange, where individuals and businesses could find competitive prices for health insurance.

It is supposed to be in place by 2013 and ready to operate in 2014.

In Virginia, both sides can't agree on a way to make it happen, and politics could be to blame.

During the rocky 2012 Virginia legislative session, lawmakers, like Richmond Delegate Jennifer McClellan, presented legislation to create health benefits exchanges.

But things got a tad bit off track.

Social issues dominated the docket, pushing a debate on exchanges to the side. Meanwhile the health care law looked to be in constitutional danger, and a presidential election was heating up.

Now the high court has ruled, and McClellan is back, asking for a special session to start the process of the benefits exchange.

"We have lost precious time, and federal resources," said McClellan. She believes it is time for the governor and Virginia republicans to accept the fact that health care reform is moving forward.

But while the Supreme Court has had its say, the presidential election is still in full swing and the Governor Bob McDonnell's chosen candidate has promised "ObamaCare" won't be around for long.

"Governor (Mitt) Romney has pledged waivers and repeal if elected," said J. Tucker Martin, McDonnell's spokesman.

Martin said McDonnell is prepared to wait, unwilling to create a big bureaucratic structure before it's absolutely necessary.

"To call a special session now, when there is no urgent deadline," said Martin, "would be an unnecessary usage of limited taxpayer dollars."

So far 12 states and the District of Columbia have created these exchanges, including our neighbors in Maryland and West Virginia.  In 11 of these 13 jurisdictions, the executives in charge are democrats.

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