Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is reaching out to President Barack Obama to get Utah's health exchange program approved under the Affordable Care Act.
On Monday Herbert sent a letter to Obama asking him to allow the state to have wiggle room in the law's requirements. Herbert argued to the president that current interpretations of the law will result in fewer choices for health care seekers and more reliance on public programs. Utah already has a health insurance exchange, but it does not meet the requirements as listed in the federal regulations.
"I am confident that if you make this change, several other states will join Utah and request certification for state-based exchanges based on our model," Herbert wrote. "I am committed to our model, and I will continue to pursue a Utah solution to Utah challenges."
The letter comes in advance of Friday's deadline for Herbert to declare if Utah will use a state-based health care exchange or a federally operated health care exchange. Herbert was to make a decision on the exchange in November, but after a request by multiple Republican governors asking for more time to understand the issue the federal government pushed back the declaration date by a month.
Utah's health exchange, known as Avenue H, is designed to aid small businesses in providing health care options for their employees.
Under the Affordable Care Act, Avenue H would need to be altered significantly to comply with the law. It would first need to include an option for individuals to obtain insurance for themselves and also include a component to determine Medicare and Medicaid eligibility for individuals seeking insurance.
Herbert is asking for an approval of the law without making those changes.
Utah's lawmakers have asked Herbert to let the federal government run the exchange. Republican leaders from both houses at the Legislature sent a letter to Herbert in November asking him to let the federal government carry the burden for a law they predict in the end will prove to be a bigger burden on taxpayers than initially believed.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, was not available to comment on Tuesday.
The White House has yet to respond to Herbert's request.