S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley rejects health insurance exchange funds

Nikki Haley 
Hear that grinding sound? That's another wrench tossed into the complex bureaucratic machine called either health reform or ObamaCare, depending on one's political perspective.

Doing the tossing this time: South Carolina's Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, who says she will refuse millions of federal dollars that were meant to help her state, the fifth-poorest in the nation, set up health insurance exchanges, reports The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

Haley is among a number of Republican governors, including Texas' Rick Perry, the current GOP presidential front-runner, who say they will not accept funding for the exchanges, a key component of last year's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The exchanges, which are slated to start in 2014, are supposed to give consumers "a one-stop marketplace where you can choose a private health insurance plan that best fits the needs of you and your family," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote on a government blog last month. "Just like you can purchase your eggs, milk, vegetables and cleaning supplies from your local supermarket, an Exchange will be your one stop for all of your health insurance needs."

Tony Keck, the head of South Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services, said the state is rejecting the money because the federal rules establishing them are not clear. The state might decide later that the exchange makes sense, he told the paper, "but that may be years off."

Rob Godfrey, a spokesman for the governor, said that Haley, a GOP rising star, remained "an equal opportunity opponent of ObamaCare, the spending disaster that South Carolina does not want and cannot afford," according to the account.

The paper notes that 21% of South Carolinians under 65 were not insured in 2004, according to a state survey from that year. Godfrey said Haley would continue to look for other solutions beyond ObamaCare that provide "the most health at the least cost."

South Carolina is among a number of states that have sued to stop the health reform law, arguing that its mandate that people buy insurance violates the Constitution. The matter is expected to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.   

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--Richard Fausset in Atlanta

Photo: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during the conservative activists Red State Gathering on Aug. 13 in Charleston, S.C.  Credit: Alice Keeney / Associated Press

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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