Va. Watchdog: Conservatives see new silver lining in Obamacare fight
Gov. Bob McDonnell says it’s going to be up to the federal government to bring the Affordable Care Act and its health-insurance exchanges to Virginia.
He’s not going to do it.
With a week remaining before a Nov. 16 deadline for submitting plans for a health-insurance exchange to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, McDonnell laid the issue at the feet of the feds.
“I don’t want to buy a pig in a poke for the taxpayers of Virginia,” McDonnell told reporters on Thursday.
Going against his April declaration in HB 2434 to move forward with a state exchange — a virtual marketplace in which people can purchase health insurance coverage from government-vetted insurers — McDonnell surprised even the conservative advocates like Americans for Prosperity Virginia State Director Audrey Jackson, who had opposed a state exchange.
But Jackson and tea party activists see the governor’s path as a potentially winning strategy to undermine Obamacare.
“Federal exchanges have to be funded through the federal government, and since those funding bills have to go through Congress, they’re not going to be funded,” Jackson predicted.
That, at least, is the hope for Jackson and other conservative groups like AFP. While states have to fund exchanges they set in up — to the tune of roughly $50 million to $100 million per year per state, according to AFP State Policy Manager Nicole Kaeding — the feds are responsible for funding federal exchanges.
“Given the financial status of the federal government with the high debt levels and the deficits, I think that casts doubt on the ability of the government to expand the bureaucracy further,” said Mark Daugherty, chairman of the Federation of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots.
Of course, the possibility of funding any federal exchange through new taxes is always a concern, said Jackson.
“We’ll continue to fight tax increases,” said Jackson.
Daughtery said tea party members are ready for the fight.
“Tea party folks going forward (will) continue to put pressure on our respective congressmen and congresswomen,” Daugherty said.
At the state level, Kaeding said AFP will be working to make sure the Legislature doesn’t try to push a state exchange in January.
“We’re working hard to make sure that outcome is met,” said Kaeding. “And we would love to even see them proactively pass a piece of legislation saying that they will not create an exchange.”
Karen Hurd, chair emeritus of the Virginia Tea Party Alliance, said tea party members are turning their attention to the 2013 gubernatorial race, in which Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling have both announced bids for the Republican ticket.
“We know Cuccinelli will fight it,” said Hurd. “I don’t know how hard (Lt. Gov.) Bolling will.”