The Republican party has been fighting against President Obama’s landmark health reform law since it was first introduced, but some GOPers are finally conceding that it may not be in their best interest to resist Obamacare altogether — especially because, as former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has pointed out, some important Obamacare provisions actually originated as “Republican ideas.” Frist has urged states to set up health insurance exchanges under Obamacare, since that actually gives state officials more control over their own insurance markets; otherwise, the federal government will simply step in to set up one for them as Obamacare’s implementation marches forward.
But even though GOP officials in deeply conservative states agree with Frist, some intransigent members of the Republican party continue to resist every aspect of Obamacare as a purely political statement. Meet five GOP officials who have been clashing with their fellow Republicans over implementing Obamacare in their states:
Mike Cheney – Mississippi
For the past year, Mississippi’s insurance commissioner has worked under the radar to prepare for a state-level insurance exchange, but his efforts have been thwarted by the rest of his party at every turn. Chaney agreed to cease his work until after the election after mounting pressure from other conservatives. After Obama secured re-election and ensured his health law won’t be repealed, and Chaney informed HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that he plans to oversee the creation of a state-run exchange, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) went to Sebelius to express his objections to Chaney’s decision. According to Chaney — who maintains that implementing Obamacare is “not about politics,” but about following the law — the governor told him that opposing Obamacare is somewhat of a political pact. “He said, ‘We — some of the Republican governors — should not give in to the Obama administration on this, because they will change the rules and control everything. You cannot trust them,” Chaney recounted to Politico.
Gov. Rick Snyder – Michigan
Michigan’s Republican governor wanted to set up a state-run exchange so that his own state officials would have more control over the insurance market. But Republican legislators in his state repeatedly voted to block him from moving forward with plans for implementing an exchange. By the end of August, Snyder conceded he was left with no other options, acknowledging that federal officials would have to step in to set up the exchange since his fellow Republicans prevented him from doing it himself. “He would have preferred a state-based exchange so Michigan can control its own destination instead of the feds being in driver’s seat,” the governor’s spokesperson told the Detroit News.
Sandy Praeger – Kansas
Kansas’ insurance commissioner spent two years working on plans for a state-run health exchange market in her state. But earlier this month, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) announced that Kansas would not be participating in a state exchange, bringing Praeger’s plans to a screeching halt. Praeger told Politico that she doesn’t believe the governor’s position is motivated by a real understanding about what’s best for the state’s insurance marketplace. “I think it’s about politics,” she said. “There’s still a feeling with some conservative governors around the country that somehow not participating will cause this program to fail.”
Don Hughes – Arizona
Arizona’s director of healthcare policy was planning for a state-run exchange before Gov. Jan Brewer (R) announced her intentions for the insurance market in the state. Before the election, Hughes told Reuters that even though Arizona is a very conservative state that remains opposed to Obamacare — it was one of the states that filed a joint lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act — he felt that state officials should still work toward setting up their own exchange. “If we have to have one, I think our preference would be to have a state-based exchange rather than defer to a federal exchange,” he said. Nevertheless, Brewer rejected a state-run exchange earlier this week.
Gov. Bill Haslam – Tennessee
To the dismay of state lawmakers, Tennessee’s Republican governor has been weighing a state-run health exchange. Politico reports that Haslam’s spokesperson explains the governor is carefully weighing all his options to determine what is best for Tennessee, but Republicans in the state have already pledged to block legislation that would work toward setting up an exchange. One Republican representative said he was “flummoxed” by the fact that Haslam might be considering implementing Obamacare — and since Republicans will hold 26 of the 33 seats in the state Senate by next year, they will reject any health exchange plans that Haslam brings to them.