Here is a draft of our Sunday editorial.
It didn’t get the attention it deserved amid the elections — the silly season.
But Oct. 26 may have marked the launch of the reason season, at least where Idaho and health insurance is concerned.
A panel of gubernatorial appointees voted 10-2 to recommend a nonprofit, state-based health exchange — an online marketplace where small businesses and individuals can shop for insurance.
Not a minute too soon. And just in the nick of time.
The health exchange has been locked up in ideology and anti-Obama fervor for long enough. Now, we hope Gov. Butch Otter follows his task force’s recommendation, and makes a decision that puts the public interest ahead of politics.
The concept behind a health exchange makes perfect sense. In a state with nearly 300,000 uninsured residents, an exchange is an attempt to help consumers navigate the insurance marketplace and find affordable coverage. And it’s only logical to establish a statewide exchange that can react to local market realities.
Really, a state-run exchange is such a no-brainer of an idea that it should have been established long ago.
Instead, legislators chose to use the health exchange as a handy political scapegoat, a vehicle for venting their ire over federal health care reform. They resisted creating a state exchange, even when federal money from the 2010 health care law would have covered the costs. They chose to do nothing even though they knew full well that the health care law gave them two options: establish a state exchange, or take what the feds come up with. They chose to throw the dice on a Supreme Court challenge to the health care law, which proved to succeed only in squandering even more time.
That’s why the health exchange task force’s work has collided with the silly season. The group worked quickly enough. It took less than four months to get from the Supreme Court ruling to the task force’s Oct. 26 recommendation.
But that leaves Otter a very limited and intriguing window of opportunity. The state has until Nov. 16 to decide whether to pursue a state health exchange. That’s less than two weeks away — but 10 days after the presidential election.
Otter received the task force’s 51-page report Wednesday, spokesman Jon Hanian said Friday, and has made no decision. And while Otter deliberates, Tuesday’s election could change the dynamics; Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal President Obama’s health care law. Indeed, one of the two dissenting votes on the task force came from Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, who suggested waiting on a health exchange decision until after the election.
To its credit, the task force made the right call, the apolitical call. Pursuing a health exchange is the right thing to do, no matter which party claims the presidency.
Here’s hoping Otter sees it this way. Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s election, nearly a fifth of the state’s population is uninsured. Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s election, these Idahoans, these constituents, are one medical crisis away from financial disaster.
If the state can address their plight close to home — in a manner that actually distances the issue from the vagaries of federal politics — then there’s absolutely no reason to delay further.
Otter has sent some encouraging signals. He voiced support for an exchange heading into the 2012 session, only to relent in the face of conservative opposition. Forming a health exchange task force, just days after a Supreme Court ruling that dealt a stunning blow to Otter and fellow conservatives, was a reasoned, pragmatic response.
The next move, again, is Otter’s. His next decision will be the pivotal decision. Otter’s concern should be for his uninsured constituents.