Anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the federal health care law is mounting with talk of a decision early next week. Here in Idaho, business leaders say the lack of a state-run health insurance exchange is a main point of concern.
Legislators didn’t establish a state-run exchange last session, despite pressure from the Idaho Department of Insurance and the state’s most influential business lobby. Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry President Alex LaBeau says that heightens worries for businesses concerned about the future shape of health care provision in the state.
“The path that the Legislature unfortunately chose was to not do anything, which was I think a glaring failure,” he says. “As a result, it put the State of Idaho behind the eight ball, and, I think, was gambling with our citizens’ future. I think that’s just wrong.”
Exchanges are often described as “marketplaces,” because their primary function is to allow consumers to compare health insurance options based on price and coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, states that do not establish their own exchanges ahead of the 2014 deadline will be drawn into a federal exchange.
During the legislative session, LaBeau, the state Department of Insurance, and others expressed worry that Idaho will have little influence in determining the shape of that federal exchange, or the costs it imposes. But outspoken opponents of the Affordable Care Act like Representative Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) had their minds made up early. “This healthcare mandate is not good for the nation,” Barbieri said in January, before the legislative session began. “It’s socialism. A socialist America is a broken America.”
Idaho received a $998,220 federal exchange planning grant, which the Department of Insurance and the Department of Health and Welfare used to cover personnel and other costs related to understanding the requirements and implications of establishing a state-run exchange. The state was also awarded more than $20 million in federal money to develop an exchange, but the Legislature did not sign off on that spending.
Department of Insurance Director Bill Deal declined to comment on how the Supreme Court’s decision might affect Idaho in light of lawmakers’ decision not to establish a state exchange. It’s better, he said, to wait and see what the ruling brings.