President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, a cornerstone in his first term, continues to draw heat as discussions in states including as Pennsylvania continue to stall over health insurance exchanges.
Penn State Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Administration Kyoungrae Jung said that a health insurance exchange is simply a marketplace where people can buy their insurance.
Through the exchange, people can assess the availability of insurance plans according to premiums and quality.
People who may not have access to insurance through their employers can, primarily, make use of it, she said.
Jung explained the role of the exchange is to get information from the insurance companies to consumers. There are rules about what insurance companies should offer and the exchange works by ensuring that companies comply with regulations, she said.
Press Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Fabien Levy wrote in an email that once the exchanges are set up in 2014, they will answer questions on tax credit eligibility for millions of consumers and small businesses, as well.
Though Gov. Tom Corbett received an extended deadline to rule on the exchanges in late November, state discussions have remained non-definitive on the issue.
As a former attorney general, Corbett was one of 12 same ranking officials to take the president's health care reform law to task in court, said Christine Cronkright, a spokeswoman from the governor's office.
"However, when the Supreme Court decision came down in the summer, he has been very clear in saying, 'Let's make sure we follow the law moving forward, and we will look at what options we have available from that decision,' " she added.
Cronkright said the options include instituting a health exchange system run by the state, or a system in which the state enters a partnership with the federal government to regulate the exchanges. The third option involves defaulting to a federally run system.
Nevertheless, at issue has been the insufficient information the governor has received from the federal government regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, Cronkright said.
As previously reported, Obamacare, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in June, obligates all Americans to purchase health insurance even if they do not have access to such through the government or an employer, under the penalty of a sum paid to the Internal Service Revenue.
Cronkright said the governor's office has written letters through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the secretary of Department of Public Welfare to the federal governmentto ask for clarification on some of the aspects of what that implementation would look like for Medicaid expansion and state based health insurance exchange.
The letters, which can be found on insurance.pa.gov, seek increased explanation on governance, operations, financing and the long-term sustainability of the "state default health exchange," as well as attempts to receive enough information to pin down the state's role in governing the exchange in Pennsylvania, she said.
"There's a lot of information we still need to receive in order to make an informed decision," she said.
As the governor's office awaits answers from the federal government, Cronkright said the public will be alerted next week.
The standing deadline for the governors to lay out a blueprint regarding exchanges and to approve or nix a state based exchange is Dec. 14, Cronkright said.