Due to a lack of proper options and very little guidance from the federal government, Governor Robert Bentley on Monday chose not to confine Alabama to an "essential health benefits" plan under the Affordable Care Act.
Governor Bentley explained his decision in a letter to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"As you are aware, I am a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act," Governor Bentley wrote. "As both a physician and a governor, I have determined that it is irresponsible and short-sighted to make a decision on essential health benefits by confining the decision to a select few plans and without having been offered clear guidance from the federal government."
Under the Affordable Care Act, "essential health benefits" were to be established by states as a foundation for medical coverage in the years 2014 and 2015. However, Governor Bentley said the Affordable Care Act does not present options that consumers need in order to control costs and actually receive higher-quality care.
"I truly believe that in order to control costs, consumers themselves must be a part of any equation. As such, I am a strong supporter of health savings accounts," Governor Bentley said. "Health savings accounts empower the consumer in all aspects of health care decision making. The Affordable Care Act includes many provisions, all supposedly geared toward making health insurance affordable, yet it does not include any significant mention of health savings accounts. I contend that the law does not make health insurance affordable and negatively affects consumer choice."
"Health savings accounts provide what the ACA does not: a consumer-oriented, marketplace-driven option for health coverage," Governor Bentley added.
Without such an option, and without further information from the federal government, Governor Bentley said it would be irresponsible for him to commit Alabama to a specific benefits plan.
"The parameters placed on the selection of the essential health benefits benchmark plan do not allow states to select innovative mechanisms, such as health savings accounts, or a variation thereof," Governor Bentley said. "As such, I decline to make a decision on the essential health benefits benchmark plan. There is simply not enough valid information available now to make an informed choice for such an important decision."