As Gov. Tom Corbett tells it, Pennsylvania will not run its own health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act because Washington has not given satisfactory answers to questions put to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Insurance exchanges will be the marketplace where the uninsured buy coverage. On Wednesday, the governor said that for two years his administration has been engaged in careful planning on the implementation of the new health care law, yet HHS has been unresponsive on questions about costs, impact and flexibility.
"Health-care reform is too important to be achieved through haphazard planning," he said. "Pennsylvania taxpayers and businesses deserve more. They deserve informed decision making and a strong plan that responsibly uses taxpayer dollars."
Assuming the facts are correct, the Corbett administration's stance seems reasonable at first blush. We might even believe this explanation if the governor's past actions did not cast a shadow of suspicion over everything.
Republicans have made a fetish of promoting the idea that many things done by the federal government should be left to the states. But when the biggest issue in decades comes along, they don't want any part of it. Leave it to the federal government, Republican governors like Mr. Corbett now say.
The fact is Mr. Corbett never wanted Obamacare, as conservatives derisively call it. He joined a lawsuit by half the attorneys general in the nation, almost all of them Republican, to have the law overturned as unconstitutional. Thanks to the Supreme Court, they failed in that but still are not prepared to help implement the law.
When Mr. Corbett says that "health care is too important to be achieved through haphazard planning" he stretches belief too far. After all, he wouldn't want this law if it were a model of planning, and it is doubtful that HHS could ever give satisfactory answers to the law's mortal enemies.
Pennsylvania had a chance to fashion a federal law to its own needs, which is what conservatives say they like. But the law's foes still engage the fantasy that Obamacare will go away if only they are uncooperative. Never mind that health care was a key issue in the presidential election and Mitt Romney, the candidate who vowed to end it on his first day, lost.
This action probably doesn't matter because the state will have other chances to get on board with the law of the land, but it does highlight the pettiness and intransigence that put politics above helping people.