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Utah governor: Obama should have reached out on health law

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Utah’s governor on Wednesday said President Obama’s health care law would have turned out better if the administration had reached out to governors for their ideas.

Echoing complaints from Capitol Hill Republicans, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert told the American Enterprise Institute that nobody from the administration sought input from the states before drawing up the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

“I think that was a big, big mistake,” Mr. Herbert said. “I think we could have given them some insight and some suggestions to make it better.”

Two days prior, Rep. Michael C. Burgess, Texas Republican, had told the National Health Policy Conference that “all the anxiety you’re seeing play out now is because the governors were not included” in the run-up to passage of Mr. Obama’s law.

Mr. Herbert at AEI discussed a “virtual” health insurance marketplace that his state established for residents well before Mr. Obama’s law made “health exchange” a commonplace term.

Drawing distinctions with the federal law, he pitched the Utah exchange as a private sector-driven market in which consumers can compare plans without facing an individual mandate that forces them to buy insurance or face a tax penalty, as in Mr. Obama’s law.

Utah changed the name of its market place to “Avenue H,” after the word “exchange” seemed to take on a negative connotation in recent years, according to Mr. Herbert.

He said the state is working with the Obama administration to preserve their exchange, which will focus on the business market, while the feds take care of the individual market.

“I think people can learn from what we’re doing in Utah,” he said.

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