BOISE – It’s been known for a few weeks now that Gov. Butch Otter wants the state to create its own health insurance exchange. We got our first look Tuesday of how that exchange will be set up.
The plan behind this is to have the state keep as much control as possible. The governor's philosophy is Idaho knows better than the federal government what's best for Idahoans.
Otter's Chief of Staff David Hensley presented the highlights of his boss' Health Insurance Exchange Act. It happened Tuesday afternoon during the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee meeting.
The proposal was backed by all nine members of the committee.
The bill would create a 16-person board that would oversee the exchange.
"Instead of surrendering our authority to the federal government, what we would do is stay at the table and try to work through that process and create a vehicle by which people can voluntarily purchase and sell insurance in the state of Idaho," said Hensley.
Several months ago, the governor created a 13-person task force to look at the federal health care law and decide whether the state should create its own exchange or be a part of a federal exchange.
Wayne Hoffman with the Idaho Freedom Foundation was one of two people on the task force to vote against a state-run exchange. He doesn't like the governor's bill.
"It is extraordinarily vague. It leaves a lot to the imagination. For example, we keep hearing that a state exchange will cost less than federal exchange. There's nothing in that bill to guarantee it," said Hoffman.
When asked about the costs to Idahoans, Hensley responded by saying we currently pay some of the lowest insurance costs in the country.
He believes the state can run its exchange cheaper than the federal government by charging a premium tax much less than the feds. That premium tax would be added to your insurance premiums. It's how the exchange would be funded.
Other points of the bill would be for the exchange to run independently from the government. It would be self-sufficient, allowing Idahoans to voluntarily buy and sell insurance.
"The governor believes that Idaho controlling its own destiny is always going to be better than surrendering control to the federal government," said Hensley.
Those for and against the state-run exchange have set up petitions.
The governor's petition is now on his website, and urges people to contact their legislators.
Hoffman and the Idaho Freedom Foundation also set up a petition.
The next step for this bill is a hearing scheduled for Feb. 5 inside the Statehouse auditorium.