States Using Laws, Not Threats, to Block Obamacare

While Republicans in Congress threaten to shut down the government to defund Obamacare, Republican-led states are using laws to make implementing the law as complicated as possible.

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As October 1, the day when the uninsured will begin shopping for healthcare plans through Obamacare, looms ever nearer, conservatives at both the state and the national level are working hard to stop the law. While some Republicans in Congress threaten to shut down the government to defund Obamacare, Republican-led states are using the law to make implementing Obamacare as complicated as possible. The shutdown threat is probably an empty one — even Republican leaders openly say they don't want to do it. But the state-level maneuvers aren't. According to The Washington Post's Sandhya Somashekhar, a handful of Republican-led states are creating legislation to make Obamacare implementation next to impossible.

One strategy involves blocking or restricting the work of administration's "navigators," a group of tens of thousands trained to help people sign up for health insurance. At the national level, GOP senators have also attacked the "navigators" program, arguing that it provides strangers with confidential information. In a letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (pictured above) in June, nine GOP senators argued that felons could become navigators. States, however, have the power to reduce the navigator's access to the uninsured. Somashekhar writes:

In Ohio, for example, navigators won’t be allowed to compare and contrast plans for customers. And in Missouri, which has a Democratic governor but a Republican legislature, they are required to immediately cut off contact with any customers who at some point have talked to a professional broker or agent.

Certain states have also increased the requirements of the navigators. As reported by Bloomberg News, some states are "imposing licensing exams, fines that can run as high as $1,000 and training that almost doubles the hours required by the federal government," to protect individuals from misinformation.

Obamacare is also facing state-level setbacks in Michigan, which voted on Tuesday night to expand Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured individuals. As reported by M Live, Republican members of the state senate prevented the Medicaid legislation from going into effect until April 2014, three months after Obamacare funding becomes available. The state will lose $600 million in funding, or $7 million a day, and the uninsured will stay uninsured during that period.

Of course, Obamacare has met the most opposition in Missouri. Somashekhar reports:

Last year, voters approved a ballot initiative barring state and local government officials from helping to implement the law. [..] The state, which rejected the Medicaid expansion and declined to set up its own health-insurance exchange, also restricted the work of navigators and decided not to enforce the new rules on insurers.

The state-level efforts to block the Affordable Care Act have been more successful than national efforts. "I think some of these guys need to understand that you shut down the federal government, you better have a specific reason to do it that’s achievable," said Republican Senator Richard Burr, who called the government shutdown tactic "the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.