La. won’t create insurance exchange website

Louisiana will not create its own marketplace for finding and purchasing health insurance, according to a letter to be sent to the federal government on Friday.

State Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein wrote that Louisiana “would not assume the risk of building a health insurance exchange,” according to the letter dated Friday but released late Wednesday.

The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, called “Obamacare” by many, requires each state to set up a health insurance exchange, which generally would be a website where people without health insurance could go to find and compare policies. Open enrollment for exchange plans is scheduled to start Oct. 1, 2013, and coverage will be effective Jan. 1, 2014.

Initially, a Friday deadline was set for the states to notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if they planned to set up their own exchange. The federal government plans to run an exchange for the residents of states that refuse. The initial deadline was postponed a month.

The federal government estimates the Affordable Care Act will help find the insurance coverage that pays for health and medical care for about 30 million currently uninsured people. About half those people are expected to use the exchanges to find and buy insurance policies from private companies.

In his seven-page letter, Greenstein listed in technical terms the issues that he thinks makes the Affordable Care Act “unworkable” and “bad policy.”

For instance, though the U.S. Supreme Court found the new health care law constitutional earlier this year, Greenstein wrote that many legal questions remain, including religious freedom and unjust taxation. He also argued that many exchanges would not be ready by the October deadline because the federal government had yet to set formal regulations for how exchanges qualify for approval.

“We are not implementing the exchange,” Gov. Bobby Jindal told The Huffington Post, a news website based in New York, in an article published Wednesday. “It doesn’t make sense for us to do that.”

Jindal said he wants to pursue more market-based competition in health care programs.

Jindal’s office did not respond to requests by The Advocate for interviews on the subject. The Huffington Post reported speaking to Jindal for about 30 minutes Tuesday night.

Jindal is in Las Vegas for the Republican Governors Association annual conference.