Bringing the Economy Home

Gov. Otter’s Health Exchange Plan Clears First Hurdle In The Idaho Legislature

Click the image to see Gov. Otter's petition website.

A panel of Idaho senators voted unanimously to give a full hearing to legislation that would create a state-based health insurance exchange.

Gov. Otter’s chief of staff introduced the proposal to the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee today. It’s the first step toward creating an online insurance marketplace for Idaho.

“It’s important to understand that this RS [bill draft] is really the result of a process that began over 6 months ago in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld Obamacare,” said Otter’s chief of staff David Hensley.

Idaho’s Republican governor has made it clear that he wants a state-based health insurance exchange. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter told the federal government in December the Gem State is moving toward creating its own exchange. But that requires approval from the full Legislature, which has become increasingly conservative over the last few years.

The governor has created an online petition to convince lawmakers a state-based exchange is the way to go. It launched this morning with about a dozen signatures.  A few hours later it’s gotten more than 100.

On the petition webpage, Gov. Otter lays out his argument for an exchange with five points:

  1. It is the best choice for Idaho
  2. It keeps the feds at bay
  3. The higher cost of a federal exchange
  4. State implementation is consistent with our state’s rights stance
  5. It’s the law

The governor’s health insurance exchange plan would create a quasi-governmental entity. Hensley says the exchange would not create a new state agency, and it must be financially self-supporting. The proposal would create a 16-member board to oversee the creation and implementation of the online marketplace. Hensley says it would be a place to purchase health and dental insurance.

Additionally, Hensley says the exchange should be fully voluntary. “Neither the exchange nor any agency of the state of Idaho shall require any person to participate in the exchange, nor shall they have the authority to impose upon or collect any penalty for failure or refusal to participate in the exchange,” Hensley read from the bill.

Hensley’s 11-minute presentation to the committee ended with two brief questions from the committee and no discussion. The unanimous vote means the bill will be printed and scheduled for a full hearing, which includes public comment.

UPDATE 4:30:  The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative lobbying group, launched its own anti-health exchange petition online late this afternoon. The petition doesn’t list how many people have signed, or who has signed it. In a tweet, Freedom Foundation executive director Wayne Hoffman said, “We will provide that [petition details] to legislators on our time table. Let’s just say the response has been great.”


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