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Democrats in Alabama have accused Gov. Robert Bentley and other Republicans of "flip-flopping" on the issue of setting up a statewide health insurance exchange in compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal healthcare law.
Gov. Bentley announced last week that Alabama would not play a role in designing a state level exchange, a place for Alabamians to compare and purchase health insurance plans if they are not covered by their employer.
"Either, Dr. Governor Bentley has a poor memory, or he is not telling the people of Alabama the truth" said Mark Kennedy, Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.
The governor campaigned with a platform of setting up a health insurance exchange for the state in 2009 and 2010.
Shortly after voters elected him into office, then Governor-Elect Bentley told AL.com during a trip to Washington that he wanted to implement a state-level exchange. The Affordable Care Act had been signed into law earlier in the year.
He told AL.com, ""If we don't do it, then (the federal government) will do it, so this gives us the opportunity to come up with some really good ideas and I want to be at the forefront of that in Alabama."
The governor maintains that his idea of an exchange is completely different than that which the state would have created under the federal healthcare law.
"The healthcare exchange that they're talking about setting up now is in state-name only. It is managed by the federal government" Gov. Bentley said on Monday. "It's like comparing apples and oranges with the same name on it."
Gov. Bentley says what he called for during his campaign was a model of an exchange that would exist in what he refers to as a, "free market," and not under the guidelines and restrictions of the Affordable Care Act.
Kennedy with the Democratic Party also pointed out that the governor is going back on his some of his other comments where we he talked about the growing reach of the federal government into state affairs.
Kennedy said, "For a governor who talks and rails against the fact of federal interference in our daily lives, our failure to set up a federal healthcare exchange does not mean we are not going to have one. It just means that the federal government is going to set one up for us." He also said that Bentley was pandering to the right wing of the Republican Party that refuses to accept that law is constitutional, despite a Supreme Court ruling from June of this year upholding most of the law.
There are other Republicans in Alabama who are also facing scrutiny over flip-flopping on the exchange issue. A proposal in the Alabama House of Representatives to establish a health insurance exchange passed the House last April without a single "No" vote. The "Yes" votes included most of the entire Republican Caucus, as well as Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.
Rep. Hubbard, (R – Auburn), applauded the governor's decision to not set up an exchange shortly after last week's announcement.
The proposal never came up for a vote in the Alabama Senate over concerns of possibly limited health insurance competition in the state.
The governor maintains that the entire Affordable Care Act is "unworkable."
Kennedy says that's the governor's opinion but added, "Governor Bentley, for whatever reason, other than ‘I just changed my mind,' said that's not in the best interests of Alabama consumers."
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