Idaho takes center stage in national health care debate

Credit: KTVB

Idaho takes center stage in national health care debate


by Ysabel Bilbao & Scott Evans
Idaho's NewsChannel 7


Posted on September 17, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Updated Sunday, Nov 10 at 3:13 PM

BOISE – Idaho's governor is appearing on cable TV news shows across the nation, and President Obama is putting off a trip to Asia -- all in the debate over a national health care bill.

Idaho health care companies and organizations are waiting for the details of the 2,300 page bill now on the Internet and available for the public and Congress to read before a House vote scheduled for Sunday.

News from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, known as the CBO, has released its findings saying the Obama health care reform plan would cut the deficit by more than a trillion dollars over 20 years.

"That makes this legislation the most significant effort to reduce deficits since the Balanced Budget Act in the 1990s," said Obama.  That has the president smiling.  But locally, companies and organizations say they want to see the big bill before they decide if they like it.

The AARP in Idaho says it has some major concerns.  It is hoping lawmakers will stop what they call pricing out Americans, close the so-called donut hole in Medicare Part D, and eliminate high prescription drug costs.  They are optimistic about the new version of the bill.  "The health care system isn't working for a great number of Americans and a great number of Idahoans right now. We've got 220,000 Idahoans, 90 percent of them that are uninsured. Ninety percent of them have jobs but they can't afford the health care that they need for themselves and their families," said David Irwin, AARP.

Blue Cross of Idaho says health insurance in Idaho is already priced well at 11 percent below the national average.  "We're in favor of meaningful reform that helps control the cost of health care, and that's what we support. We don't think that the current legislation as much as we know about it, will help do that. In fact we think that it will probably, and research that we have shows that it will likely drive up the costs of health care, making health care insurance less affordable for people," said Karen Early, Blue Cross of Idaho.  The insurance company says as it sees the reform bill the proposed legislation is more about insurance reform and not about health care.

President Obama has postponed his trip to Indonesia in hopes of signing the bill soon.

More than a dozen House Democrats have said they would be more likely to vote “yes” for the Obama bill with the confirmation from the CBO that the plan would leave the U.S. Treasury a lot healthier.

While Congress looks to prepare a health care bill to be voted on this weekend, Gov. Butch Otter and Idaho lawmakers took a preemptive move to counteract what's happening on Capitol Hill.

The steps our state leaders are taking are being watched all over the country.  Otter is garnering a lot of attention for signing the Idaho Health Freedom Act.  Should the current form of the health care reform bill pass (which requires all citizens to buy insurance), the Idaho bill would require the state attorney general to sue the federal government on behalf of its citizens - a class action lawsuit.

Otter signed that bill Wednesday, and today a simple Google search for Otter and this bill has millions of hits.

Not only is he getting attention on the Web, media outlets nationally are jumping on board as well. Earlier this afternoon Otter was on Fox News with Neil Cavuto  "We were the first state where the governor actually signed it, but there's a lot of other states are considering this, and like I say, if we get 36, 37 states, Neal, we've got constitutional mass," said Otter.

If enough states jump on board they could actually override the federal government by amending the Constitution.

Otter will also be on CNN Thursday night with Anderson Cooper.

He also talked with Mark Johnson on Viewpoint, which will air this Sunday at 9 a.m. on Channel 7.

Under the 72-hour rule, the House will vote on the health care bill Sunday afternoon at the earliest.