Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, responded Thursday to Sen. Russ Fulcher's argument that Idaho should resist establishing a state-based health insurance exchange because the Affordable Care Act is more likely to fail if states let the feds run the online marketplace.
"Sen. Fulcher is trying to create a circular firing squad," Rice told me Thursday. "It's a cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face strategy."
Rice said he had prepared a written response to Fulcher, R-Meridian, who wrote an essay opposing a state exchange for the National Federation of Independent Business. (NOTE: I first saw the Fulcher essay on Idaho Chooses Life's site and my original post erroneously suggested that's where the piece first appeared.)
Shortly after our conversation, Rice submitted an op-ed, noting that the landscape has changed since the Supreme Court upheld the law against a challenge by Idaho and other states and President Obama's reelection.
"Now we are left with a different decision," writes Rice. "The question before us is will we have a State based exchange or a federal exchange? Rejection of an exchange in its entirety is not one of our options."
Rice says a state-run exchange would give Idaho more discretion in managing health plans and save money for Idahoans. "Voting no on a state exchange will not exempt any individual or business from the penalties and taxes that are part of Obamacare."
Rice and Fulcher have an unusual connection: Both owe their positions in some measure to the resignation of former Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, last year. Rice was appointed to fill McGee's seat by the leading advocate of an Idaho-run exchange, GOP Gov. Butch Otter; Fulcher was elected by Senate Republican to replace McGee as majority caucus chairman. (Fulcher had been caucus chairman before, but gave up the post in early 2011 to seek the top Senate job, which was won by Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg.)
Rice's op-ed follows:
The question of health insurance exchanges is a hot topic at the Capitol. As legislators we wade through a sea of information. Some of it is factual. Some of it is false. And some of it is speculation. Yet we are here to make decisions that will affect the personal and family budgets of every Idahoan. Some seek to make our decision a question of ideology, painting support for a state based exchange as socialism and support for defaulting to a federal exchange as liberty and support of free markets.
As a State we sued the federal government to stop Obamacare. We won a little and lost the most important part of the litigation. As Americans we had an opportunity to reject Obamacare, including the exchange, but the president was reelected. Now we are left with a different decision. The question before us is will we have a State based exchange or a federal exchange? Rejection of an exchange in its entirety is not one of our options.
So what are the real facts? A federal exchange is more costly to each Idahoan than the state based exchange proposed by the Governor. We have those facts. It is also factual that we will have more discretion with a state based exchange than we would if we have a federal exchange. Voting against a state based exchange is a vote for even more money to come out of the pockets of every Idahoan. Voting no on a state exchange will not exempt any individual or business from the penalties and taxes that are part of Obamacare.
There are those who will tell you that if we join with other states who have declared their intention not to create an exchange we won’t have an exchange at all and we will be able to do something else. This is simply not true.
Insisting on a federal exchange amounts to cutting off our noses out of spite. At the end of the day we would have an exchange and the only difference would be that we would not have noses. Our best option is to support our Governor and adopt the exchange he has proposed. We can still continue our opposition to Obamacare, but we don’t have to maximize the cost to every Idahoan while we do so.
You can follow Idaho Statesman Politics on Twitter.