Utah Exchange Head: Huntsman’s Health Reform ‘Accomplished A Lot That Is Required By The Health Law’

The GOP can complain about “burdensome” new Affordable Care Act regulations and standards, but it’s going to be hard to ignore the fact that some of these requirements are actually quite similar to a law signed by former governor and current 2012 presidential contender Jon Huntsman. Consider this admission from the head of Utah’s exchange, which was enacted as a result of Huntsman’s 2007 health reforms:

We’ve already accomplished a lot that is required by the health law. If the law goes into effect and all the court cases have been heard, and we’re required to put those actions in place, we will certainly do that. We have moved through each phase of our process knowing that we would most likely have to do that. And a lot of what we want for Utah isn’t necessarily unlike what the federal requirements are, so we won’t likely have to unplug a lot of this.”

Many of the ACA rules surrounding exchange structure and minimum benefits requirements are still being drafted, but if the administration’s early statements are any indication, they will likely allow states like Utah — one of only two to already operate an exchange — to continue running the program with minimal changes. In other words, the administration is likely to err on the side of less federal regulation, heeding Jon Kingsdale’s advise. Kingsdale, who ran the Massachusetts exchanges, made the following recommendation at a recent Institute of Medicine panel: “My experience suggests revisiting and learning from cases and some flexibility and even phasing in would all be very helpful as you go down the path of defining a minimum benefit that will be extremely controversial,” he said. And if that’s the case, Utah will find itself already in compliance with many of the ACA’s new rues and the GOP argument that health reform represents some kind of big government overreach will look silly in the face of red state Utah’s similar model.