Wyoming government doesn't operate like the federal government. Wyoming officials like to know what they may be getting the state into before they decide to do it, but Department of Health and Human Services' delayed answers and non-answers about a health exchange under the new federal health care law made making an informed decision difficult, according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.
At a Senate Finance Committee Hearing today, Enzi asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Gary Cohen about the inadequate information regarding the health exchanges.
"My governor wrote on July 19 of 2012 trying to find out enough about the exchange that our Legislature could deal with the exchange," Enzi said. "He got an answer, no he didn't get an answer, he got a letter in January of this year."
Enzi explained that because the Wyoming Legislature meets for a limited time each year, there was no chance for its members to thoroughly evaluate the pros and cons of running a state health insurance exchange.
Cohen is the Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"We do our best to answer the questions as quickly as we can," Cohen said. "With respect to Wyoming, I have personally met and spoken with the insurance commissioner of Wyoming a number of times with respect to the exchange and the options available to Wyoming."
Enzi said a number of key regulations necessary to establishing exchanges were just released after the presidential election in November. Wyoming has been joined by other states, insurers and other stakeholders in criticizing the Administration for the lack of clarity provided to date. Several significant regulations remain to be issued or finalized with less than 12 months to go until the statutory deadline.
Administration of health insurance exchanges will be paid for by user fees charged to insurance companies, which in turn pass costs on to their customers. Enzi is concerned the administrative costs could balloon to pay for this new bureaucracy, which would result in higher health insurance costs for consumers.
Enzi believes that ultimately, the confusion regarding the exchanges is the result of a massive, complex and ambiguous bill that one party forced through Congress.