Otter: Idaho must act to 'minimize the federal government’s footprint' on health care

Gov. Butch Otter fired an early shot Thursday in what could be the biggest debate of the 2012 legislative session.

Otter sent out a guest opinion arguing for a state health care exchange — a service that would allow individuals and small businesses to shop for health insurance. Some lawmakers are lining up against the plan, and are upset that the state would use money from the federal health care law to establish its own health insurance exchange.

Wrote Otter: "I want to work with the Legislature to find IDAHO solutions to Idaho’s health care issues and minimize the federal government’s footprint on how Idahoans obtain their health insurance. The fact that it could be June before the Supreme Court issues an opinion on constitutional challenges to Obamacare in no way diminishes the need for the Legislature to discuss the issue during its 2012 session."

Here, in full, is the Otter guest opinion:

You likely have heard a lot in the news media over the past several months about health insurance exchanges. I’ve heard from few people objectively opposed to the idea of a one-stop clearinghouse for the best, most up-to-date and concise information available about options for insuring themselves and their families against the potentially catastrophic costs of health care.

But I also share the concerns of many about who would operate such an exchange, and whether it would be market-driven and locally focused or more attuned to the top-down models we have come to expect out of Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s so-called “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” effectively halted plans by Idaho and some other states to improve health care accessibility and affordability. Idaho joined 25 other states in challenging the constitutionality of this unprecedented overreach of federal power. So as we await a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the case in 2012, I want Idaho to be prepared for the nationwide health care environment — economic and regulatory — that results from the court’s ruling.

Obamacare mandated establishment in each state of a health insurance exchange — essentially an Internet portal where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance. But long before the passage of the law, Idaho was exploring ways to create its own exchange emphasizing free-market principles and creating a competitive marketplace that would improve access to coverage and keep insurance decisions between Idaho patients and insurance providers.

But federal red tape created by Obamacare — plus accelerated expansion of Medicaid programs — complicated the process for states to independently set up such a marketplace. Now Idaho is left with some tough choices.

I allowed our state agencies to apply for a health insurance exchange grant in order to preserve the opportunity for legislators and our citizens to discuss our options and decide what’s best for Idaho. Now this next statement is particularly important so please take note: Passing up the opportunity to apply for the grant would have left Idaho with only one option — a health insurance exchange imposed and operated by the federal government.

The decision on how to proceed with a health insurance exchange is difficult, given continuing uncertainty about the federal law and what seems to be a growing number of strings attached. Our path forward is one that warrants input from those who will be most affected. The Legislature will need to act with the best interests of Idaho and our citizens in mind. In the coming weeks we will be working together to weigh all our options and the potential outcomes associated with each of them.

Legislative approval to spend the grant money would enable Idaho to build an exchange, but even that option has potential complications. If Idaho sets up an exchange using federal dollars and the federal government does not approve of how the exchange is structured, it will step in and take over. If the Legislature rejects the grant money and the Supreme Court upholds Obamacare, Idaho loses control and our citizens will be subjected to a federal exchange.

I want to work with the Legislature to find IDAHO solutions to Idaho’s health care issues and minimize the federal government’s footprint on how Idahoans obtain their health insurance. The fact that it could be June before the Supreme Court issues an opinion on constitutional challenges to Obamacare in no way diminishes the need for the Legislature to discuss the issue during its 2012 session.

I look forward to the discussion and hope that it will be civil, informed and open. And I hope it will have at its heart the deep-seated desire that I know most Idahoans share to be the architects of our own destiny.

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I prefer Obama's health care plan

Market-driven and locally focused has caused my insurance payment (through employer) to rise from $254/mo in 2011 to $685/mo in 2012.

Just sayin'.

So what was Otters plan before Obama's?

"Unfortunately, President Obama’s so-called “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” effectively halted plans by Idaho and some other states to improve health care accessibility and affordability."

This is the first I've heard of anything being formulated by Otter and company. Was it a 'market-driven' solution?

BTW, I don't support Obama's because it didn't go far enough towards a single payer system.

"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government." Neil Peart

What was Otter's supposed plan?

Gr8 point Boisepoet.

I doubt Butch buddy had any plan prior to Obama's efforts. This would have possibly cost business $, and would have been a cardinal sin under the GOP Bible.

Maybe someone should submit a Public Records Request to obtain the framework of this early work by our "dear leader". Butch's claims to have started something that would have benefited the citizens at the expense of business seem to me to be pure political posturing. Let's see if he can produce this information.

As an aside, I suggest we rename the Greedy Old Party (GOP) the Party of No (PON).

The Republican health plan is simple

Get a good job. Get good insurance.

How?

How is one to get a good job in Idaho as long as illegal immigrants keep on stealing those coveted fruit-picking and dairy jobs from laid off professionals and managers who earned good salaraies working for the companies that moved their corporate headquarters out of Boise? Gee, now that we "Fired Pelosi," I just understand why things haven't gotten better in the Treasure Valley.

Maybe if the Republicans focused on improving Idaho's economy we'd have those good jobs. But after two decades of complete Republican rule over Idaho, perhaps it's time to elect new people with priorities that seriously fix their ineptitude and economic failures.

How?

I will second that sentiment holdthemaccoutable.

I've recently picked up a book, but have yet to finish reading it: "Winner-Take-All Politics" by Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson.

So far a very interesting read about how Washington has made the rich richer by lowering the taxes on the top tier earners, establishing policies that allow unfettered salaries for corporate board members and wall street brokers, and is not middle class friendly. This has gutted the ability of the government to fund existing programs due to the burden shifting to the middle class. Even though the major function of government is to provide the infrastructure upon which corporate America transports its products to market, fund research that enhances the health and welfare of its citizens, and restrict monopolistic abuses, to name just a few.

These authors so far have done a good job at stepping back and asking questions about why the income inequality in America has skyrocketed over the past 30 years, the worst among the developed nations, when other countries experiencing the same market forces have maintained more equitable income equality. The usual culprits, such as poor American education system, have been suitably exonerated. The real culprit is government has sold out the middle class to the highest bidder, the super rich.

Data presented in this book show how income for the super rich has risen over 250 times, while the middle class has remained flat, at best, and actually dropped for the lower rung. The "trickle down" theory that was embraced early on in this effort just allowed those who controlled the purse strings to filter out more cash at the top.

I'm a 3rd generation Idahoan, with a masters degree and professional licensure (engineer), and I am continually baffled by our legislature's inaction when it comes to issues that will detrimentally impact business's bottom line even though the outcome may be very beneficial for the citizens of Idaho. Our government, both here in Idaho and back in Washington, is not a government "Of the People, By the People, For the People". It is a government "Of Big Business, By Big Business, For Big Business". I've had it with the Party of No (PON), formerly called the GOP. I refuse to be a pawn (PON).

Great post

Are you interested in running for office?

You and disgrunt... do realize don't you?

I was being facetious, or being ironic, or sarcastic...take your pick.

Thanks for clarifying

Never quite sure where people are coming from on some of these postings . . .

Lets not waste time over this

Butch has come to his senses and the Legislature needs to do the same. If Idaho doesn't craft their own exchange the "one size fits all" HHS exchange will get rammed down our throats. The Gem State does not have the cash required to get the exchange in place in the time allowed by the Feds...we had to take the federal cash to get things moving. Hopefully the 2012 election will bring meaningful change to the "reform" effort, but for now we need to play the cards we are dealt and stop or avoid political posturing over the big, bad federal government. We can do that in the voting booth in 2012.

Too funny

Otter never gave a rats rear if anyone in Idaho had health insurance or not, other than himself and his rich cronies. He is being dragged kicking and screaming into reform that should have taken place when the Republicans first proposed Chafeecare in 1993, which is now Obamacare. The only regret anyone should have is that it isn't single-payer.