We appreciate Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter making a tough, but practical decision the week of Dec. 10 when he chose to develop a state-based health insurance exchange. We respect his determination to get the best deal for Idaho and its citizens.
Governor Otter is no fan of the federal health care law, going as far as to challenge the law in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. His resolve to do what is right for Idaho is unquestioned. That makes his decision to support a state-based exchange more powerful. Governor Otter said it best: a health insurance exchange would be coming to Idaho whether we built one or not. In the face of this reality, he knew it would be irresponsible to willingly surrender a role for Idaho to the federal government in shaping the law’s impact on our citizens and employers.
A health insurance exchange is essentially an online marketplace, where individuals and businesses can shop for and purchase health insurance coverage. These exchanges will allow people to compare prices and benefits before buying, thus creating a competitive market for insurance policies. We knew after the 2012 election and the US Supreme Court’s ruling that health care reform including health care exchanges was going to be enforced regardless. But we had a choice: build one for Idaho or let the federal government do the job for us.
I spent several months on Governor Otter’s health insurance exchange working group studying this issue, and our research showed us that Idaho would be best served if we took control of this job ourselves. The research made it clear that we could take the time to build a health insurance exchange that would work for our marketplace and Idaho citizens. If we dodged the job, the federal government would do it for us. I think most Idahoans would agree that any operation built by Idaho will be of superior benefit to this state than any bureaucracy imposed on us by the federal government. Ultimately, our working group voted 10-2 to endorse the direction that Governor Otter has chosen.
A state-based exchange will help Idahoans maintain as many options as possible in the creation and operation of this important function. To do anything different could have a damaging effect on Idaho’s economy. We all benefit from our state’s policies that are driven by Idaho values and priorities. I’m confident that a health insurance exchange built by Idahoans will be of higher value to Idahoans than anything built and operated by the federal government. We cannot just ignore the reality that this is the law of the land. Although there are still questions, ensuring Idaho has more control in this process is the pragmatic and sensible approach.
The exchange now needs the approval of the Idaho Legislature, and they will proceed with their own due diligence on the issue. And, undoubtedly, there will be other opinions that deserve respect. Certainly, there are aspects of the federal law that make many in Idaho cringe. However, in reality, this law will not be repealed. The only way to have a positive impact is to direct Idaho’s future ourselves as much as possible. I am very grateful to Governor Otter for leading the way.
These and other factors are why IACI joined more than 400 individuals, businesses and trade organizations in the Idaho Health Exchange Alliance, a coalition that encouraged Governor Otter to make this important decision in a way that benefits Idaho. 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