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October 2012 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

So far, fall has been full of news on insurance, new voting districts and more.

  • Governor Refuses to Comply with Health Care Exchange Deadline: Governor Robert Bentley announced that Alabama will not comply with a deadline in setting up state health insurance exchanges required under the Affordable Care Act. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services asked states to submit lists of essential benefits that could be models for plans offered on the exchanges. The governor said the state would not submit the information because there had been a lack of guidance from the federal government. Bentley joins other GOP governors speaking out against or refusing to comply with various portions of the Affordable Care Act. The Act requires states to establish insurance exchanges, which are web-based marketplaces in which people can shop for health insurance plans. The exchanges are supposed to be operational by 2014. Health experts say if a state does not choose to comply the benchmark will be the largest small group plan in the state. In the state of Alabama that is presumed to be Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s 320 Plan.
  • State to Launch Insurance Verification System: TAlabama’s liability insurance law has been on the books for 12 years, yet 22 percent of drivers in the state are still uninsured; one of the highest rates in the nation. The state has been testing the Online Insurance Verification System since June; ahead of its implementation on January 1. Alabama will be the first state to use such a system.  State officials believe this system will lower the rate of uninsured dramatically, and the goal is to get the uninsured drivers in our state down below 10 percent. The new system will provide law enforcement a new tool to help catch those who try to break the law by using fake insurance cards. Starting January 1, you will not be permitted to register a vehicle in the state unless your insurance can be verified through the system or you can provide proof in person.
  • Justice Department Approves New Legislative Districts: The U. S. Justice Department has cleared Alabama’s new legislative districts for use in the 2014 elections. The Justice Department has to review new political boundaries in the state to make sure they don’t violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising black voters.  Attorney General Luther Strange expressed pleasure that the Department of Justice has approved the redistricting plans. Strange said he is proud of his staff for handling the matter so quickly and for achieving a desirable outcome. The Legislature drew new districts last year for Congress and the State Board of Education, which also received prompt clearance from the Justice Department. The New district lines are based on the 2010 census.

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