Obama Administration Will Give States More Time To Work Toward Health Reform

Now that the election is over and Obamacare is here to stay, states are facing rapidly approaching deadlines for some of the health law’s provisions. But since many Republican governors resisted working toward Obamacare’s key state-level reforms in the hopes that Mitt Romney would win the presidency and repeal the health law, they are now caught in a position where they haven’t done their homework — and many of them don’t have enough time to catch up before the November 16th deadline for submitting their health exchange plans.

In the interest of encouraging states to work out the best plans for their residents, however, the Obama Administration will give those recalcitrant governors a little more time. The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that states will have until December 14th to submit their detailed plans for state-level health exchanges, although they will still have to declare their intentions to form an exchange by this Friday.

“This administration is committed to providing significant flexibility for building a marketplace that best meets your state’s needs,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote. “We have heard from many states that additional time would allow you to submit a more comprehensive, complete blueprint application for your exchange.”

Nevertheless, at least five Republican governors have already stated their intention to block Obamacare’s implementation in their states, and continue to refuse to set up their health exchanges or expand their Medicaid programs. Lawmakers like Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) are being pressured to reconsider their positions and cooperate with Obamacare to extend coverage to their state’s low-income residents — but if intransigent governors continue to resist the health reform law, Obamacare won’t be able to operate as it was intended, potentially falling short of its goal to extend coverage to roughly 30 million previously uninsured Americans.

The Obama administration may be facing an uphill battle, since last week’s election results ensure that Republican governors will control 30 states by next year.