On Thursday, Rep. Janice McGeachin handed members of her House Health and Welfare Committee a little light reading: the federal health care law.
All 906 pages of it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am all for legislators reading legislation — starting with the legislation on which they actually vote. But there is some gamesmanship going on here, as McGeachin and her committee prepare to take center stage in the debate over a state-run health care exchange.
McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, is emerging as one of the Legislature’s best-positioned opponents of the proposed exchange — a federally funded portal where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance. And if McGeachin can turn the debate over the exchange into one more Statehouse referendum on the law Republicans love to call “Obamacare,” she just might rally enough resistance to stop the exchange.
“Obamacare” is the opposition’s best card, and perhaps their only one. After all, the state’s exchange would be joined at the wallet with the federal health care law, since Idaho would receive a $20.3 million grant from the feds. It is never bad Statehouse strategy to demonize the feds, especially when a Democrat is in the White House.
Subtle? Nope. “McGeachin should remember she is in Boise and not Washington, D.C.,” Corey Taule, editorial writer for her hometown Post Register, wrote Friday. But while many adjectives can be affixed to the Idaho Legislature, “nuanced” seldom makes the cut.
I can forgive McGeachin and her fellow health exchange critics for feeling beseiged. This proposal has some powerful allies: such as business lobbies, AARP Idaho and Gov. Butch Otter. While the governor’s support can best be described as tepid, the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce used its annual luncheon forum with legislators to present a less-than-subtle pitch for an exchange. The word “Obamacare” was uttered but once. But at the forum, presented by the Statesman, panelists kept playing to legislators’ fear of all things federal. A health exchange is inevitable, they said, and best administered at the state level.
And so, that day, McGeachin dropped $397 at a Boise print shop to make 10 copies of the federal health care law. She told the Post Register she’ll use campaign donations to cover the cost, so her theatrics were not done on your nickel.
OK. But McGeachin and her committee members should focus first on reading Idaho legislation. They’ll get all the copies they want, for free. It’s one of the perks of the job.