As Ky. Republicans ramp up criticism, Beshear says he's working on 'various ideas' to pay for exchange

12/01/2013 06:27 PM

Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration is reconsidering how to pay for the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange amid increased criticism from some Republicans in the legislature and a court case challenging a fee Beshear created through executive order.

Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, last week was the latest Republican lawmaker to ramp up her criticism of the 1 percent fee Beshear created through executive order when he laid the groundwork for the health exchange in July 2012 . The 1 percent fee would be charged to insurance companies that will sign up uninsured Kentuckians through the exchange. The money raised from that fee would cover the operation costs of the exchange once federal grant money runs out.

But in a statement in response to questions from Pure Politics, the governor’s office said it’s suddenly considering other ways to pay for the exchange.

“Various ideas for a sustainability plan for the exchange are being discussed, and such a plan will be finalized for implementation before current funding expires in 2015,” said the statement, which came more than a day after Pure Politics asked for responses to questions raised in a Nov. 24 interview with Denton.

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond before the Thanksgiving holiday to follow up questions about whether any “sustainability plan” would require legislative approval.

That has been one of the key points of contention from Senate Republicans, who tried unsuccessfully to pass a bill this year requiring legislative approval for the exchange and expansion of Medicaid, which are part of the Affordable Care Act. A lawsuit brought by tea party activist David Adams also has challenged Beshear’s ability to move forward without the legislature’s approval.

Referring to testimony during a Nov. 19 Health and Welfare Committee meeting in Louisville, Denton said health officials left open the possibility the the fees might go beyond 1 percent to insurance companies.

“I don’t believe that he has the authority to levy that surcharge without legislative authority, period,” Denton said (2:10). “What we’ve seen from this governor is that he likes to rule by executive order and regulation.”

Denton, though, praised the Health Cabinet for its successful implementation of the health benefits exchange website. Watch the full seven-minute interview segment with Denton here:

In addition to Denton’s concerns, Senate President Robert Stivers has called for a dialogue about Kentucky’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Stivers, however, declined to say whether he believed the governor overstepped his constitutional bounds with the 1 percent fee, saying that the question was for the courts to decide.

Alternative ways to pay for the exchange would be a new development. Beshear has been saying all along that when federal money runs out, the fee would be the main funding source.

Here’s what he said during a September press conference about Kentucky’s health benefits exchange:

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