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Insurance Exchange Delay Gives Gov. Otter More Time To Get Guidance From Feds, Lawmakers

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HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday granted states more time to decide whether to create their own health insurance exchanges.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said today that he will confer with Idaho legislators and try to get more information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) before coming to a decision about whether the state should build its own health insurance exchange.  The state’s other options are to leave it to the federal government, or pursue a federal-state partnership.

Today was the original deadline for that decision, but HHS granted states a one-month reprieve yesterday, based on a request from the Republican Governors Association

The governor’s Health Insurance Exchange Working Group last month recommended that Idaho adopt a state-based exchange.  But the governor’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, said in an email that the governor shares some of the questions included in the Republican Governors Association’s letter.  The questions include things like, “When will the details of the federal partnership options be available?”

The decision to delay a decision will no doubt please the legislators who continue to believe the state should resist implementing the Affordable Care Act.

“In a nutshell, Obamacare is a socialist, bureaucratic nightmare, and a socialist America is a broken America,” Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) said this morning.  “I just disagree that a state-based exchange is the thing to do.”

Barbieri has been one of the Legislature’s most vocal opponents of the health care law, and he’s in powerful company.  House Speaker Lawerence Denney (R-Midvale) and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R-Star) have also made their opposition clear.

That said, one longtime advocate for a state-based exchange also says it’s a good idea for the governor to take his time and get all of the information he can get.  “I think that HHS was very generous in giving folks an additional amount of time,” said Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry.  “I think it shows an air of cooperation coming from the federal government.”

LaBeau says he’s certain a state-based exchange is in Idaho’s best interest, no matter what HHS clarifies about the structure of the federal model.  And he’s not surprised that an already slow decision process just became a little bit slower.

“I think if anybody’s sitting on the edge of their seat they’re going to be stressed out for a very long time,” he says.


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