Top city health official vows to break state anti-Obamacare laws

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Anti-Obamacare bill state legislators passed a law last year says any state or local government official who provides consumers with information about health care reform can face lawsuits. But the city’s top health official is defying them. Meanwhile, Missouri consumers largely remain in the dark about the online health insurance marketplaces that are supposed to start operating on October 1st.

City health director Pam Walker knows Missouri law forbids state and local government officials like her from co-operating with the feds about the online health care exchanges.

“If we don’t break the law, that’s great. But, if it’s a violation of the law, so be it.” said St. Louis Health Deptartment Director Pam Walker.

Despite state law Walker intends to begin a full-scale push to let St. Louisans know they can shop for health insurance online at a federally-run health care exchanges starting in October.

“It’s not productive to try to keep people in the dark and so we’re not going to do that. we are going to be out front, very agressively, to inform people what their choices are and to get people signed up.” said Pam Walker “If that’s called civil disobedience to impliment the law of the land, good for them.”

Washingtgon University health care expert Tim McBride says state policy keeps Missouri consumers in the dark about the health care exchanges that start operation in about six weeks.  “What we’re really talking about in this state is about 800,000-900,000 people who are uninsured. The vast majority of those are low-income people.”

As of October 1st those people can go online and shop for health insurance. Each state has it’s own site but Missouri lawmakers refused to set one up.

“We known that the federal government will operate an exchange in Missouri, that Missouri’s one of nineteen states where the fed’s going to operate the exchange. Sixteen states will operate their own at this point in time.  We don’t know much about what the federal exchange is going to look like.” said Dr. James Kimmey of St. Louis University.

But do we know how much the health insurance will cost on the exchange?

“Some of the states that are doing their own marketplace have started to come out with what their rates are. So, we saw that in the individual market in New York it’s a fifty per-cent cut in rates. In Colorado, Oregon, Calfornia have come out twenty to thirty per-cent drops in rates.” said Ryan Barker of the Missouri Foundation for Health.

But, that doesn’t mean all rates will drop on the exchanges. Some could be higher and we find out more when the exchanges start.

As to the state law saying government officials can’t co-operate with the exchanges; we’ll have to see if anyone takes legal action against city health director Pam Walker or any other officials who do cooperate.

Healthcare resources:

  • Cover Missouri: a website run by the Missouri Foundation for Health that provides information, and will have more once the exchange is up and running October 1st. Website:  http://www.covermissouri.org
  • HealthCare.gov: a website run by the Federal government that will provide links to each state’s healthcare exchange, since the exchanges are set up by October 1st. Website:  http://www.healthcare.gov

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