Friday, August 9, 2013

Wyoming's governor doesn't like federal regs UNLESS...

Confused by the relationship between the government of Wyoming and the federal government? It used to be easier. Now it’s schizophrenic. There was a time when Wyoming politicians were clear. They wanted the feds to have nothing to do with regulating anything in Wyoming. But the old “Sagebrush Rebels” have given way to a contrived opposition to Obamacare and most other “things-Obama.”

Wyoming is one of only six states where the governor refuses to enforce consumer protection provisions of the healthcare reform law is an example. You might not have expected this administration to be big on protecting insurance consumers after Governor Mead appointed someone from the insurance business to the job of regulating the insurance business. Even so, it was rather odd when the Governor invited the federal government into the state to regulate important consumer-protection provisions of the new law.

Mead is sort of a Pontius Pilate figure when it comes to healthcare reform. He has washed his hands of both Obamacare and developing a state alternative. He washed his hands of responsibility to the uninsured, passing the decision on whether to expand Medicaid to the legislature. Then he washed his hands of any responsibility to create a state insurance exchange, an online marketplace would make it easier and cheaper for consumers to choose their insurance plans.

Now Governor Mead informed the feds that he’ll keep his hands clean of any opportunity to make certain consumers are treated fairly under Obamacare. The consumer protection provisions of the Affordable Care Act include significant protections for Wyoming families. They are the most popular parts of the controversial law. These are the sections of Obamacare prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions, allowing children to remain covered under their parent’s policy until age 26, and requiring insurance companies to expend most of your premium for actual healthcare rather than leavened overhead.

The “governor of some of the people” has decided the traditional anti-federal government position he takes on environmental and most other issues should not prevent him from making a political statement about Obamacare. If you’re not among “some of the people” he represents, Mead abdicates this opportunity to protect your rights. Contrast that to the length he’s gone to protect oil and gas companies from federal regulations.

The governor who accedes regulation of insurance to the feds laments federal regulation of the coal industry. Although the coal industry is “slowly and relentlessly smothering” the planet with greenhouse gases, last year Mead complained federal regulations are “slowly and relentlessly smothering America’s coal industry.” He’s asked the feds to not even study the global warming impact of exporting millions of tons of coal.

When fracking is the issue, Mead isn’t so willing to give regulatory power to the feds as he is with your healthcare. Mead demanded the Interior Department scale back proposed rules requiring petroleum companies to disclose the chemicals injected down well bores during hydraulic fracturing.

Last year, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded that hydraulic fracturing might have contaminated groundwater in a gas field outside Pavillion, Wyoming Mead didn’t acquiesce in federal regulation. He didn’t trust the feds to regulate fracking.
But when it comes to your health, the ability of Wyoming families to obtain insurance, and the need to protect insurance consumers from insurance company predators, Matt Mead trusts the federal government.
Contrast Mead’s approach to that taken by California. Its governor saw Obamacare as an opportunity. As a result, insurance companies posted bids on the insurance exchange and premium costs are lower than anyone anticipated. Policymakers who actually wanted it to work made the difference.
In the end Wyoming consumers may be better off with federal regulation than relying on the Governor or the legislature to protect their interests. The sad but denied truth is that’s also true on environmental matters as well. But nobody ever lost a vote complaining about federal regulations, which makes turning over health insurance regulation to the feds that much more odd. 

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