Arizona Governor Jan Brewer postpones health care act decision

PHOENIX - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is postponing when she'll declare whether Arizona will create a state-run insurance exchange as part of implementing the federal health law that she opposes.

Brewer's office disclosed the postponement on the hot-potato issue late Thursday after the federal Department of Health and Human Services extended until mid-December a deadline for states to make exchange declarations.

The deadline had been Friday, and that's when Brewer had been planning to make her declaration.

"The governor remains committed to doing her due diligence about a decision of this importance, so she is hopeful that the federal government is going to provide the specific guidance and instruction we've been awaiting," Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said.

The exchange would serve as an online marketplace for consumers to purchase health coverage, which approximately 1.3 million people in Arizona lack.

An alternative to having the state create and run an exchange would be to step aside and allow the federal government to set up one for Arizona. Or she could propose a hybrid partnership between the two levels of government.

Business groups, hospitals and insurance companies have urged Brewer to create a state-run exchange, which would be subject to legislative approval. The Goldwater Institute and other conservatives say the state should not help implement the law.

Creation of an exchange would be subject to legislative approval, and a Republican legislative leader said earlier Thursday he didn't know how such a proposal would fare.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs, who will become Senate president in January, said some GOP lawmakers oppose creating an exchange, others are cautiously skeptical and others are open to the idea.

Biggs, who is among opponents of the health law and its exchange requirement, cited concerns about costs that would be imposed on the state.

Like the federal-state Medicaid program, "the feds really control it," Biggs said.

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said it'd be best if the state runs the exchange as long as it is consumer-friendly.

"This is not a partisan issue at this point," he said.

Sen. Frank Antenori, a Tucson Republican who will leave the Legislature in January because of his re-election defeat, said he believed Brewer would approve a state-run exchange but that the issue had her squirming.

"She's conflicted, and deep in her heart she knows it's the wrong thing to do, but she's going to be pressed" by the business community to create an exchange, Antenori said. "She doesn't want to be the one that gets the blame for not implementing the changes."

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