Bringing the Economy Home

Top Idaho Lawmakers Weigh In On Gov. Otter’s Health Insurance Exchange Decision

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

Gov. Otter and President Pro Tempore of the Idaho Senate Brent Hill spoke ahead of the 2012 session.

After years of resisting the Affordable Care Act and months of deliberating over whether Idaho should create a state-based health insurance exchange, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on Tuesday set Idaho on that course.  In a release that lambasted “Obamacare,” the governor said Idaho should build its own exchange.

Health insurance exchanges are the online marketplaces that allow consumers to assess health insurance plans based on costs and benefits.  They’re a main component of the Affordable Care Act, and they’re supposed to be up and running by 2014.  States have the option to build their own exchanges, partner with the federal government, or default to a federally-run model.

Otter’s decision must win legislative approval.  The President Pro Tem of the Idaho Senate, Brent Hill, said Tuesday night that it’s hard to know what will happen during the upcoming session.

I’m not even sure the governor is completely certain where we’re going to go down the road, or whether he even wants to go down the road,” Hill said.  “What he’s trying to do at this point, as I understand it, is to keep as many options open as possible so we don’t burn any bridges and find ourselves on the wrong side of the river.”

Newly elected House Speaker Scott Bedke said he also appreciates the governor’s desire to keep the state’s options open. “Having said that,” Bedke continued, “I don’t view my position as the Speaker of the House to go down and get his votes for him.”  Or anyone else’s, he said.

Bedke observed that his chamber is unpredictable for the simple reason that many legislators are new this session, and they now have only a short period of time to bring themselves up-to-speed on a complicated issue.

“They’re overwhelmed, at this point, and now we’re going to ask them, very early in the session, to make a very important decision,” Bedke said.  “I think that we need to reach a consensus, and in order for any group to reach a consensus, every member of the group has got to contribute.”

Bedke and Hill say their own minds are not made up on the issue.


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