Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mississippi Burning (The ObamaTax)

In a post yesterday, we reported on the travails of The Magnolia State's ObamaTax Exchange efforts. HHS Secretary Shecantbeserious had denied their request to install a state-run program, citing lack of inter-agency coordination, and had countered with an offer to set up a joint Fed-State operation.

As Mike pointed out, this seemed odd: "And yet, the federales tell Missippi that there's every possibility of coordinating with the same state agencies, under the same governor,  in a fed-state partnership Exchange."

I posed this dilemna to Elizabeth Festa of the National Underwriter (she wrote the original story which prompted my post). After a few emails back and forth, she came back with the Feds' final "answer" to this apparent contradiction: "Don't worry your pretty little heads about it."

Okay, that's a paraphrase; their actual reply was "a  partnership marketplace can still be set up without help from the governor's office because HHS has such a heavy role."

I'm pretty sure that my version would have gone over better.

The problem, of course, is that this is a non-answer. As I pointed out to Ms Festa (who seems like a very well-meaning and industrious person), "the HHS folks are being deliberately obtuse. Cohen (HHS) says "With ... no formal commitment to coordinate with other State agencies, we do not see a feasible pathway"

[As I explained to Ms Festa, I omitted the issue of the Governor's apparent recalcitrance because it's largely a distraction from the key issue]

I continued:

"But if MS agrees to a (Fed-State) Partnership, there's still not going to be any coordination. And if the HHS answer to that is "a  partnership marketplace can still be set up without help from the governor's office because HHS has such a heavy role," then Chaney's right when he says that "[t]he feds call the shots and we do all the work." And in that case, the lack of agency coordination becomes even more intensified."

One supposes that this could still end amicably, but at this point, it seems less likely. Ms Shecantbeserious has a pretty critical timing problem here: if they can't reach an agreement, then it automatically defaults to a Federally-run Exchange.

So what's the problem with that, Henry?

Well, there's (at least) two:

First, that countdown clock keeps on tickin', and HHS will have one more Exchange to set up (and how swimmingly is that effort going, Madame Secretary?). And second, it means that Magnolia State residents will forfeit any potential premium subsidies.

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