Creating health insurance exchange a 'priority' for state lawmakers

New York's governor and several state senators are pledging to pass legislation that would establish a health insurance exchange in New York, despite a failed attempt last year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) has set creating an exchange in New York as a priority for 2012. While outlining his agenda for his second year in office, Cuomo advocated several measures, including calling for legislation that establishes a health insurance exchange, reported the Associated Press.

New York state lawmakers almost passed a bill last year that would have created an exchange, but it stalled in the Senate. "There was a lot of apprehension about moving forward," Sen. James Seward (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, told Kaiser Health News. "There were some [Republican] members who didn't want to seemingly endorse so-called ‘Obamacare' with the passage of this bill. There were others that had a number of questions regarding the legislation."

Renewing their pledge to create the exchange, Democratic senators on Wednesday sent an open letter to their Republican counterparts urging them to act on the bill. The senators said employers could save as much as 22 percent in healthcare costs by using the exchange, reported the Business Review. "Neglecting to set up an exchange denies healthcare to New Yorkers who need it," the senators wrote.  

However, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-N.Y.) expressed concern that exchange, along with other health reform provisions, could add up to $3.75 billion in additional taxes for the state, Kaiser Health News noted.

Seward is confident a bill can pass the Republican-controlled Senate by the end of the session in June. "I believe that one way or another, it would be good for the health insurance market to have an exchange, even if the federal legislation goes away," Seward said. "We just have to work out some additional details and convince the members of the Senate that this is in fact a good piece of legislation."

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- see the Business Review article
- check out the Associated Press article