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      Governor Bentley Declines Decision on Affordable Care Act

      Governor Robert Bentley has chosen not to confine Alabama to an "essential health benefits" plan under the Affordable Care Act due to a lack of proper options and very little guidance from the federal government.{}Governor Bentley explained his decision in a letter to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.{}

      "As you are aware, I am a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act," Governor Bentley wrote.{} "As both a physician and a governor, I have determined that it is irresponsible and short-sighted to make a decision on essential health benefits by confining the decision to a select few plans and without having been offered clear guidance from the federal government."

      "Essential health benefits" were to be established by states under the Affordable Care Act as a foundation for medical coverage in the years 2014 and 2015.{} However, Governor Bentley said the Affordable Care Act does not present options that consumers need in order to control costs and actually receive higher-quality care.{}"I truly believe that in order to control costs, consumers themselves must be a part of any equation.{} As such, I am a strong supporter of health savings accounts," Governor Bentley said.{} "Health savings accounts empower the consumer in all aspects of health care decision making.{} The Affordable Care Act includes many provisions, all supposedly geared toward making health insurance affordable, yet it does not include any significant mention of health savings accounts.{} I contend that the law does not make health insurance affordable and negatively affects consumer choice."{}"Health savings accounts provide what the ACA does not: a consumer-oriented, marketplace-driven option for health coverage," Governor Bentley added.{}Without such an option, and without further information from the federal government, Governor Bentley said it would be irresponsible for him to commit Alabama to a specific benefits plan.{}"The parameters placed on the selection of the essential health benefits benchmark plan do not allow states to select innovative mechanisms, such as health savings accounts, or a variation thereof," Governor Bentley said.{} "As such, I decline to make a decision on the essential health benefits benchmark plan.{} There is simply not enough valid information available now to make an informed choice for such an important decision."