Sen. Kevin Bacon recently jumped into the debate over whether Ohio should set up its own health-care exchange, and he reached one conclusion.

'If anyone told me they fully understand the issue, I would not believe them,' the Minerva Park Republican said.

Through his own initiative - and likely because few others want to go near the issue - Bacon, the chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, is now the Ohio Senate's point person on the health-care exchange. The exchange is an online marketplace where individuals and small businesses can shop for health-care coverage under the new federal health-care law.

The Kasich administration, led by Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who runs the Department of Insurance, has said it will let the federal government set up the exchange for Ohio, arguing that it would be cheaper. Others have argued that Ohio, which has a robust health-insurance industry, would be better off if state officials tailored a plan for Ohio, rather than a cookie-cutter federal approach.

'There have been knee-jerk reactions to this across the board,' Bacon said. 'We need to drill down and find our own answers on this.'

Bacon met earlier this month with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and said that, though officials were helpful, they could not answer all of his questions. He also has been hosting meetings with a variety of business groups, insurance carriers and health and human service organizations.

'Most of the people that have been coming to us are concerned about what's going to happen if we don't do an exchange,' he said. 'While they may be uncertain, like most people, about how we would do it, they are gravitating toward the mindset that we should do an exchange.'

Some, Bacon said, are worried that the state's smaller insurance companies could be shut out if the federal government sets up the exchange. Rep. John Patrick Carney, D-Columbus, who also has been heavily involved in the issue, said he also has heard that concern. He wouldn't be surprised if the state went with a partnership model with the feds.

'It's hard to decide if you can benefit from a state exchange when you don't know what this will look like from the federal level,' Bacon said. 'We don't have anything to compare it to completely.'

Rep. Barbara Sears, R-Sylvania, agrees. An insurance agent with nearly 30 years in the business, she has taken the lead for House Republicans on the issue and said that the lack of federal direction makes it tough to reach conclusions.

'All the guidance we get says the states have flexibility for the foreseeable future until the federal government issues additional guidelines,'she said. 'What does that mean? Does that mean we're going to expend the capital both political and financial to end up with whatever the feds want us to do anyways?'

Sears, who said she has put in about 1,000 hours trying to study the exchange, isn't saying the state will never set up its own process, but 'I can't see why it makes sense for Ohio to set it up.'

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