Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fact Checking the President on State-Based Exchanges

During his remarks to the National Governors Association yesterday, President Obama made an interesting claim regarding state-based exchanges.  Specifically, he cited the different models of Exchanges utilized by both Massachusetts and Utah, and claimed that “we made sure the law allowed that” type of flexibility for states to come up with their own Exchange models.

The reality however is quite different.  Multiple press reports in January 2010 noted that the President had signed off on a “backroom deal” with other Democrats ensuring the creation of national – NOT state-based – Exchanges.  On January 15, 2010, the Washington Post’s front-page story noted:

In a closed meeting with House Democrats, Obama indicated support for a national exchange, as the House prefers, rather than the 50 state exchanges the Senate would like, according to one person present who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

Of course, Scott Brown’s special election victory in the Massachusetts Senate race four days later made the White House’s agreement irrelevant – House Democrats were forced to accept the Senate bill, and its state-based Exchanges, wholesale.  But apart from the President’s attempt to have his own facts on the matter and re-write history, one must ask:  If the President’s first inclination was for a top-down, Washington-imposed approach to health care “reform,” how much flexibility will the Obama Administration really show for states seeking to innovate?