Idaho’s economic success has many sources. Among those is a determination to seek solutions that best match Idaho’s particular needs and values. We currently face an opportunity to do that again, in a critical piece of our economy: health care.
An important part of Idaho’s prosperity is the maintenance of and access to high-quality, reasonably-priced health care. The federal government’s new laws are prompting a critical decision from Idaho’s leadership, and I encourage the pursuit of an Idaho solution. There’s been some good discussion and recommendations made, but the decision is now up to Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.
The issue is health insurance, and how Idaho provides a proper marketplace for businesses and consumers to shop for that coverage. The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) stipulated that each state create a health insurance exchange. A health insurance exchange is essentially an online marketplace, where health insurance options are clearly listed for consumers. In that forum, businesses and consumers can more easily compare prices and benefits before buying, thus creating a competitive market environment for policies.
But the federal government attached a deadline penalty to the requirement: If Idaho chooses not to create its own health insurance exchange, by default the federal government will do it for us. Seeing how the federal government manages other forms of bureaucracy, I am confident that Idaho will do a better job for its own citizens.
After receiving direction from Gov. Otter, the Idaho Health Insurance Exchange Work Group researched this option, and chose to endorse a state exchange. Our group’s vote came after five meetings over three months, including hours of testimony and open discussion with experts from across the spectrum of health care. The group’s diligent research and well-informed decision came about thanks to the leadership of Idaho Department of Insurance Director Bill Deal, who presided over the work group.
The mandates of PPACA clearly show that the cost of health insurance in Idaho will go up. Idaho has the lowest insurance rates in the country, so the best way to manage the increase is to allow the state to control as much of the new requirements as possible. A federally run exchange would virtually ignore the uniqueness of Idaho’s already low costs and drive employers’ expenses significantly higher. A nonprofit corporation model would allow the state to act quickly, provide better control, lower costs, and ensure the continued assistance from Idaho’s insurance brokers and agents.
While the governor’s work group has now made its recommendation, there’s not much time to take the final steps. The federal government’s deadline is looming in a few weeks. By November 16, the state needs to declare its intent to create its own health insurance exchange. If we do nothing, the federal government will create one for us, using a one-size-fits-all model that will impact as much as 96 percent of Idaho employers and approximately 65 perce of Idaho’s employed population.
Idaho’s economic strength is due in large part to our low cost of doing business. This important decision is another opportunity to keep Idaho’s cost of doing business low. A state-based exchange, using a free-market business model, accomplishes those things much better than the federal government ever could.
That’s why I’m joining many others across Idaho, including the Idaho Health Exchange Alliance, comprised of leaders in the health care industry and other businesses and individuals across this state, in calling on Governor Otter to commit to a state-based health insurance exchange.
For more information about the Idaho Health Exchange Alliance and a state-based insurance exchange, go to www.keepitinidaho.com.
Alex LaBeau is president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry.