Here's a sneak preview of our Wednesday editorial on the creation of an Idaho health insurance exchange.
A gubernatorial task force can make a business decision about creating a health exchange — an online marketplace for Idahoans shopping for insurance.
Or the group can make a political decision.
If business principles prevail, this task force will create a shopping mechanism for small employers and individual consumers. Providing a marketplace for the state’s nearly 300,000 uninsured residents is not just the fundamentally right thing to do; affordable, accessible coverage can help rein in the costs of doing business in the state, and create a climate that encourages entrepreneurs to strike out on their own.
By making a business decision, the task force would also protect Idaho’s autonomy, allowing Idaho to craft its own exchange instead of accepting whatever comes down from the federal government.
There’s that approach, and then there’s the political approach.
Delaying a decision until after the November election would amount to nothing more than playing politics. Some Republicans want to wait, because they hope the GOP will sweep the November elections and gain the leverage to repeal the 2010 law. Just remember, these same politicos scuttled an exchange during the 2012 legislative session, because they hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would declare the health care law unconstitutional — and we all know how that governing-by-hope worked out.
As a legislative task force met Monday and revisited the health exchange issue, the foot-draggers and the naysayers came in with a tactical advantage. By thwarting an exchange during the 2012 session, they have put the pressure on those who support the idea.
The federal government has a new batch of health exchange grants available to the states — but the next application is due in August, and Idaho is in no position to hit the deadline. Idaho could apply for a grant in November — the drop-dead time for states to make their plans for an in-house exchange, or accept whatever the feds create.
The clock is ticking, and as the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell reported, time may already be up. “We’ve not been given the direction to move forward,” Deal told the task force. “So now our timelines are getting to the point that, is it realistic that we could put together a state-based exchange at this particular time?”
That very question should lend real urgency to this process. A state-run health exchange has nearly been delayed to death. Let’s not study it to death.
Fortunately, a gubernatorial task force on health exchanges is working on a tight timeframe; it is supposed to make its recommendations to Otter by the fall. Everybody on the task force should already know a lot about this long-lingering issue. And for all of its complexities, the choice is basic: Does Idaho make a business decision, or a political decision?
“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email firstname.lastname@example.org.