N.Y. Financial Services Chief Pushes for State Health Exchange

New York State’s top financial regulator is urging the Republican majority in the state’s Senate to help establish the health insurance exchange.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat-controlled Assembly, along with some moderates and Democrats in the Senate had a reached a compromise last year to create the exchange, a set of state-regulated and standardized health care plans eligible for federal subsidies. But some in the Senate majority are opposing the deal.

Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent of New York State Financial Services, issued a statement Thursday, arguing that creating a state health insurance exchange is vital for small business growth.

“Affordable health insurance is one of the top issues for businesses, especially small business. New York’s more than 400,000 small businesses are our engines of growth, generating two-thirds of all new jobs,” according to Lawsky.

“This should not be a Republican or Democratic issue — it’s about jobs. Certification for the state exchanges begins in mid-2012 and we must be able to demonstrate we can run it by January 2013. If we don’t start building ours immediately, we will have a federal exchange in 2014.”

He said if the legislation is not passed soon, the federal government will run the exchange and New York would not be able to make important decisions about how it operates and who it serves. “If New York waits any longer, the federal government will impose an exchange not tailored to the needs of our small businesses and consumers.”

Lawsky said the federal government will operate exchanges for states that do not create their own. That means the exchange and its jobs could be located outside New York. And a federal exchange may not be the best design for New Yorkers, he argued.

New York requires minimum benefits and prohibits insurers from charging higher premiums to seniors and small businesses with older employees. Lawsky said a federal exchange operating in New York may provide fewer health insurance benefits, while charging older New Yorkers higher premiums.