GOP State Senator Rob Schaaf on Missouri's Obamacare Deadline: "Deadline Schmedline."

Categories: Politics

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"Let them do it," Schaaf says of the feds. "They have very strict rules how it would be set up, they have veto power over whether your exchange is acceptable or not, [thus] limiting the state's ability to innovate anyway. So if the feds want to do it, then let them do it."

Schaaf believes that things will look quite different depending on who sets it up.

For example, under Obamacare, low-income folks can get a tax break for buying their insurance.  In Schaff's reading of the law, though, they won't get the tax credit if the feds set up a state's exchange.

But wait, we asked him: That's the situation you prefer? You prefer that the feds set up the exchange, so that if Missourians are forced to buy insurance, then they not get a subsidy for doing so?

"If you believe in subsidies, then that would be bad for you," Schaaf says. "I myself don't believe we need to expand the welfare state."

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Professor Timothy S. Jost, a health-law expert at the Washington and Lee Law School in Virginia, tells Daily RFT that he's heard of this kind of Republican position on the exchanges, and thinks it makes no sense.

"It always struck me as odd," he says, "because Republicans are usually in favor of tax benefits for people."

Jost says that most people -- the IRS included -- have interpreted the law to mean that low-income folks will get that tax credit no matter who sets up a state's exchange.

"The larger point," Jost says, "is why would a state official want to deny the citizens of Missouri who can't afford health insurance access to probably billions in tax benefits so they can get insurance?"

Schaaf has an answer to that question. He tells Daily RFT that "there are fines that are applicable to employers who have too many people going through the exchange" to get their Obamacare-mandated coverage. "But those fines are only applicable if there's a state-based exchange."

Again, Professor Jost disagrees and maintains that Congress clearly intended the exchanges to run the same way, regardless of who sets them up.

In any case, Schaaf insists that the states need more guidance from the feds on how to run this exchange.

"We have to get more information," he says. "Whether or not we should do it is very complicated we don't know what all the thousands pages of rules from Health and Human Services are, and what our options are. Whether or not we do this will take a lot of study."

But by now, it's pretty clear: Somebody's going to have to do it. Doesn't sound like it's going to be Jeff City.

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All the state health insurance exchanges do is require private insurers to publicly state what they charge and the benefits offered and allow an individual to shop for the best value among multiple insurers. Being against this is like supporting a law that bans all advertising and web content on retail prices, so the only way you would know who had better prices on any product would require you to physically go from store to store. If you agree that you should never be able to use your computer to comparison shop for any retail product - and also proclaim to the world that you either an idiot or an health insurance exec - then you should be against insurance exchanges

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