CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Gov. Brian Sandoval said Friday that failure in Washington and President Barack Obama’s about face to allow people to keep their old health insurance policies has made federal health reform unworkable.
The Republican Nevada governor who grudgingly accepted the law’s mandates said Obama’s announcement doesn’t fix any problems and only adds more confusion.
Bowing to political pressure, Obama on Thursday announced changes to his signature health reform law, saying he will give insurance carriers and states the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled for another year.
The move came after intense pressure from critics and fellow Democrats when millions of people around the country received notices from their insurance carriers that their policies were being canceled because they didn’t comply with new coverage standards.
Nearly 25,000 Nevadans received notices.
Obama tossed the issue back to states to decide if the tangle of rules can be undone to allow continuance of such policies and whether insurance companies will go along.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives went a step further Friday, passing a bill to let insurance companies sell individual health coverage to anyone, even if it falls short of law mandates.
“I opposed Obamacare from its inception,” Sandoval, a former federal judge, said in a statement Friday. “However, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it, every state and every American was forced to abide by it.
“As a state, Nevada’s only choice was whether to let the federal government control the process or manage the process ourselves. We rightly opted for the latter.
“Now, despite our best efforts to comply with this ill-conceived law, the failure at the federal level has made this effort in Nevada significantly more difficult or even impossible.”
He called on the president and Congress to reconsider the law.
The uncertainty has caused a lot of angst in the insurance industry, said Kay Lockhart, president of Nevada Independent Insurance Agents.
“A lot of people in my business do not like this law and did not like this law from the get-go,” Lockhart said. “But when it came down to, this is the direction we have to go, the industry worked very hard.
“Last-minute changes are not good,” she said.
Lockhart said the industry is awaiting word from Nevada’s insurance commissioner about how the state will proceed.
Rates and offerings for 2014 already have been submitted, she said. “If they have to go back and change that … every little detail leaves a big wide hole for a problem. It’s rather complex.”
The unraveling of health reform leaves Sandoval in the uncomfortable position of having to fix the mess created in Washington to make it workable in Nevada, or be the bad guy who says cancelled policies cannot be reinstated.
“The governor can’t be happy about it,” said Eric Herzik, a political science professor at University of Nevada, Reno.
But without any notable opposition heading into his 2014 re-election, Sandoval is unlikely suffer political damage, however it plays out.
“I think he has a strong argument that protects him,” said Fred Lokken, political scientist at Truckee Meadows Community College. “We have 600,000 uninsured in Nevada. … Whether you liked Obamacare or not, it was the only game in town.”
Lokken noted Nevada’s state-run health exchange, Nevada Health Link, has been relatively problem-free compared to the myriad problems that plagued the exchange operated by the federal government.
“No one screwed up in Nevada on this,” he said.