Pin It

To Idaho’s Health! 

Gov. Butch Otter has made the right call on an Idaho-run health insurance exchange; the Legislature needs to follow his lead

click to enlarge art18812.jpg

Let’s toast Idaho Governor Butch Otter’s good decision to choose a state-based health insurance exchange for our generally risk-averse state. Now we can hope, pray and lobby our legislators to agree with his choice when they convene in Boise in January.

Legislators may be wary because of their intense dislike for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, or because it’s simply hard to read the tea leaves on how an insurance exchange is actually going to work.

What are we talking about exactly? A health insurance exchange is supposed to be a one-stop shop for individuals and small business owners to browse online and purchase health insurance from a variety of plans, comparing prices, benefits and services. Medicaid is included in the choices for those who qualify.

As you may have already read many times, each state has been given the option of setting up their own exchange, or a hybrid partnership with the government, or just turning it over to let the federal Health and Human Services agents devise a plan for the state.

The exchange concept went nowhere during Idaho’s last legislative session. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s validation of Obamacare and Obama’s re-election has drastically altered the game.

To some, the novelty of setting up a state-run, virtual store for folks to buy their health insurance may seem like buying a pig-in-the proverbial poke. At last count, 30 states are opting to let the feds do it for them.

But Idahoans are usually sure we can do things better locally than at the federal level. We cherish our rugged individualism. Idahoans support states rights and all that.

It’s not the first time our conservative state has taken a bold step. In 1939, a lot of teetotalling Idahoans were probably offended when Idaho went into the business of selling hard liquor. But the state liquor business has been a pretty good moneymaker for Idaho taxpayers ever since. Now, most non-drinking Idaho legislators would quietly argue against privatizing the sale of hard liquor. Sale of booze through the state liquor stores is projected to bring in $18 million to the state’s coffers in this fiscal year.

It is difficult to bring clarity to the fuzzy picture of a state health insurance online market, partly because there are so few definite details. The details that can be identified are confusing, and are written in barely intelligible governmentspeak, which frankly makes for dull reading.

But the subject is very important.

After trudging through the Idaho Health Insurance Exchange Working Group Findings of October 30, 2012, I could only conclude that Otter’s working group weighed the pros and cons carefully and thoroughly before making its recommendation to the governor.

In its findings, the group lists 25 areas where the state can retain its power to chart the state’s path to providing optimum value for Idaho’s families and businesses and lower their insurance costs. Among those choices the state will retain are the structure and operation of the insurance store, how the store will be financed and how it will be run.

I won’t list the 21 other areas the state keeps control of for the reason listed above — they aren’t by themselves very interesting. But you can find them, online, in the impressive Report of the 2012 Idaho Working Group Findings.

In uncharted territory, the working group’s conclusion that Idahoans will benefit by keeping controls close to home makes very sound sense.

Idaho doctors agree that a state-based insurance exchange can better meet the unique medical needs of Idaho, with its relatively small population and extensive rural spread. Dr. Robert McFarland of Coeur d’Alene, president of the Idaho Medical Association, told me Idaho physicians are able to contact and influence the local insurance companies when their policies cause problems for patients.

Dr. McFarland noted that, even though a federally managed exchange would possibly attract more competition to Idaho’s Blue Cross and Regence Blue Shield monopolies, national companies tend to underserve as well as underbid the nonprofit “Blues.”

It will be up to the newly installed Idaho Legislature to keep the program on track. Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman reports that the skids may be being greased for approval of the state-based insurance exchange option. Let’s hope so.

I suggest that folks living in Idaho lean on their freshly elected legislators, urging them to support this move to bring affordable health care to all Idahoans.

The dream is that by 2014, individuals and small business bosses will be able to sit at their computers and shop for affordable health insurance plans that best fit their budgets. Computers will be available for those who do not own one. And everyone, if the Medicaid expansion goes through, will be covered by some kind of health care plan.

Happy New Year! 

  • Pin It

Latest in Comment

  • The Landed and the White
  • The Landed and the White

    How Americans followed tradition when they voted for Trump
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Do Something!
  • Do Something!

    Writers Resist, MLK Day activities and more ways to engage with your community
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • On the Street
  • On the Street

    Will you tip differently because of the minimum wage increase?
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Too Fun Tuesday

Too Fun Tuesday @ Spokane Valley Library

Third Tuesday of every month, 4-5 p.m. Continues through May 16

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Mary Lou Reed

  • Old Proverbs, New Problems
  • Old Proverbs, New Problems

    Ancient wisdom might help us cope with the prospect of Trump
    • Dec 22, 2016
  • Guardian Saint
  • Guardian Saint

    The presidential campaign ignored the homeless, but North Idaho's St. Vincent de Paul makes them their business every day
    • Nov 23, 2016
  • Looking Down the Ballot
  • Looking Down the Ballot

    Idaho faces some important decisions in November, from education funding to seating a new Supreme Court justice
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • Thanks, Obama

    The legacy of the 44th President goes far beyond the election of the 45th
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment





green zone

Readers also liked…

  • To Kill the Black Snake
  • To Kill the Black Snake

    Historic all-tribes protest at Standing Rock is meant to stop the destruction of the earth for all
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • Forever Free
  • Forever Free

    How 150 years of freedom from slavery affects all Americans
    • Jun 10, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation