By Peter Rudegeair
(Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Thursday he vetoed a bill that would have created a health insurance exchange for his state under President Barack Obama's signature healthcare program.
Christie, whose announcement came on a day when he was visiting the White House to discuss tens of billions in federal recovery aid after Superstorm Sandy, joined 18 other states in rejecting a measure to create state-based health insurance markets where consumers could purchase private, federally subsidized coverage.
Christie, a Republican who has nurtured a reputation as a cost cutter, cited uncertainty over what such an exchange would cost the state and over what kind of flexibility New Jersey will have in managing it.
"I will not ask New Jerseyans to commit today to a state-based exchange when the federal government cannot tell us what it will cost, how that cost compares to other options, and how much control they will give the states over this option that comes at the cost of our state's taxpayers," Christie said in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set a December 14 deadline for states to decide whether they will participate in state-based, federal or partnership exchange. Some 18 states have said they will create their own state-based exchanges and another 18 plan to default to a federal exchange, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
This marks the second time this year that Christie vetoed an attempt to create a state healthcare exchange. He rejected a similar bill in May on the grounds that the healthcare law, called the Affordable Care Act, might be unconstitutional, a view the Supreme Court rebuffed when it ruled in favor of the law in June.
The veto also comes as Christie pressed his case in closed door meetings with Obama and House Speaker John Boehner for funds to finance clean-up and rebuilding efforts following the storm.
New Jersey and New York officials are seeking $80 billion, despite a media report that the White House will request only $50 billion.
(Reporting By Peter Rudegeair; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Philip Barbara)