NY GOP Senators Block Creation of State Insurance Exchanges

As the New York Times reports today, Republican lawmakers in New York, who see it as their “mission” to block heath reform, have blocked the state from applying for large amounts of federal assistance to create health insurance exchanges, which are mandatory under the law.

“With 2.6 million uninsured residents, a popular Democratic governor and tens of millions of federal dollars at stake,” writes Thomas Kaplan,”New York would seem to be one of the least likely states to join a growing revolt in the nation’s capitals against facilitating a federal overhaul of health care.”

The exchanges are state-run marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can buy insurance.  They are intended to increase access to health care and reduce costs over the long run.

But the Republican-controlled Senate refuses to act and Governor Andrew Cuomo appears not to be pushing them very hard:

Kaplan writes:

Although Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed creating the insurance exchange, and the State Assembly, with a Democratic majority, approved it, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to take it up before the Legislature adjourned its regular session at the end of June. Now, Republican lawmakers are balking at returning to Albany to consider the matter, as deadlines pass, and Mr. Cuomo, despite an unexpectedly harmonious relationship with Senate Republicans, appears to be unwilling to force the issue at this time.

Lawmakers cannot duck the health care law simply by not setting up the exchange, notes Kaplan.

If by 2013 the federal government does not believe a state is making adequate progress in building the health marketplace, it will set up the exchange itself. Some New York Republicans have argued that the so-called deadlines mean little, and do not justify taking action without more debate.

According to the Times story, Democrats in the State Senate have urged the majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, to call lawmakers back to Albany to enact the exchange bill before the next deadline. But a spokesman for Mr. Skelos said Sunday that the Senate had no plans to return to the capital this year.

If lawmakers do not return before the next legislative session begins in January, they will miss another federal deadline, Dec. 30. After that, they will have two more financing rounds to seek additional money, with deadlines of March 30 and June 29.

And all during this time of pure politicking and of politicians unwilling to twist arms, real people with few resources are going without care, some getting ill and dying, for reasons having solely to do with men jockeying with each other for power.

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