Saturday, November 24, 2012

Governor Mead could have been a leader, but the feds won't answer his questions.

It’s unseemly when the Governor whines that he’s unable to make decisions because federal bureaucrats won’t answer his questions. It’s difficult to imagine many, if any, of Matt Mead’s predecessors failing to lead simply because their letters to the feds went unanswered.

His next campaign slogan could be, “I could have been a leader but the feds refused to answer my questions.”

This governor is yet to offer even one idea of his own to address the problems of the uninsured. That’s leadership? It certainly isn’t leadership when he uses the ruse that the feds won’t answer his questions as a pretext to turn his responsibilities over to the feds to create a health insurance exchange. It’s nothing more than a ploy he and his Republican colleagues mimic. Iowa’s GOP governor Terry Branstad sent 50 questions to the Department of Health and Human Services. Like Mead, Brandstad said that unless they were answered, Iowa might opt out.
In Idaho another Republican governor ignored recommendations of the advisory committee he appointed. They said an exchange created by the people of the state consistent with the needs of the state is preferable to one established by the feds.  The governor said, “I don’t want us buying a pig in a poke.”

As of last week 17 states, including conservative states such as Kentucky and Mississippi, are taking care of their own citizens rather than abdicating to the federal government. Those governors didn’t wait for the feds to answer questions. They took the lead, recognizing an opportunity to improve healthcare for their citizens. They answered their own questions.

Does it matter? Yes. Wyomingites are fond of the belief that we are unique. Sometimes it’s a myth but not when it comes to healthcare. The state’s rural nature has obligated state government and the private medical sector to create a delivery system quite different from those in larger states. Fewer people, longer distances, irregular resourcing, lack of doctors and other uniquely rural realities meant stringing together a healthcare delivery structure with which the federal government is unfamiliar.

The exchange will offer you a website to compare insurance plans and rates and to have questions answered in an objective manner rather than calling a dozen different insurance companies for information and misinformation. The answers found there will be considerably different and infinitely more useful if the website is created by Wyoming people who understand the state and are familiar with its people and their needs rather than by people along the Potomac.

If we don’t do it, the Obama administration will. Odd choice for Wyoming don’t you think? Wyoming doesn’t want the feds regulating wolves, education, agriculture, mining, oil and gas or much of anything. Why would we want them to take responsibility for creating a marketplace for our citizens to purchase health insurance? Does the governor support a Washington takeover of that responsibility?

Is the governor fearful that among his cabinet and other well-informed state employees there is insufficient expertise to answer his questions? Does he doubt they are capable of planning an insurance exchange consistent with Wyoming’s needs and resources? I’ve been there. I’ve been a part of the team at the Wyoming Department of Health. Those offices are filled with bright, committed people who understand these issues and have the knowledge required to do this job right. If the feds won’t answer Mead’s questions, these folks can and will. It’s insulting for the governor to say the answers can come only from Washington.

Some of us have watched events at the statehouse for a long time. It’s difficult to remember a time when a governor was so indecisive as Mead. It’s a problem not only on this issue but others as well, e.g. juvenile justice, Medicaid expansion, highway funding, to name a few. On this one, a critical deadline will soon pass, leaving his constituents at the whim of the federal government.

In Mead’s world, state’s rights apparently include the right to leave it to the federal government.

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