Democratic candidate for governor, Keith Allred, believes there exists "a more promising direction" than the lawsuit against federal health care reforms challenged by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, which has the full support of Gov. Butch Otter.
In a press conference in the Senate auditorium in the Capitol in Boise Wednesday, Allred said that Otter’s focus on the lawsuit "overlooks an important provision in the federal legislation" under which states can "get a waiver from the federal requirements if they establish alternative programs that control costs and increase access better than the federal legislation itself."
Though Allred agrees with Otter that health care is a states' rights issue, he is critical of how the current governor is handling health care reforms.
"The only thing he's done is sign a bill that means we'll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the hope that federal judges will tell the federal government that their solution is unconstitutional," said Allred, referring to the Idaho Health Freedom Act, which authorized Wasden to sue the feds once reforms were passed into law.
Allred said that if the state government can establish a health care system that is affordable, Idaho could opt out of the federal mandate that requires individuals to purchase insurance, along with a slew of other federal regulations.
Among other things, Allred favors:
- Set up a state-run public option that would compete with private insurance companies and hold them accountable. The state could use the total federal dollars it gets to subsidize coverage for low-income folks in the public option as well as in private plans.
- Waive out of the individual mandate. If a state has its own way of making the insurance market competitive and insurance is affordable enough that people will end up buying into the pool anyway, a state could decide to do away with the federal penalty that applies to people who do not purchase coverage.
- Come up with a voucher system that allows people to take the amount employers now contribute to their workers' health coverage with them to new insurance exchanges.
He told reporters that if Idaho chooses to go it alone on health care, it wouldn't be the first time the state has crafted better policy than the federal government to shirk federal regulations. Allred explained that former Idaho Govs. Jim Risch and Dirk Kempthorne both participated in processes that allowed the state to manage itself, with Risch developing a policy on how roadless wildness areas are handled, and Kempthorne generating standards to manage the Snake River Basin. "I believe that Idaho can do better than the federal government," said Allred in explaining his vision for health care.
His plan would not be a quick fix, however. He explained that in order to craft the best solution possible for the state, he would invite experts from the medical field to devise program options for health care. It would be a multi-year process, Allred said, but a process that the state would need to be proactively engaging in to be ready to opt out of reforms. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department will decide if states have programs necessary to opt out in 2013. If Idaho is allowed to opt out, that would take place in 2014, when the bulk of federal reforms will be instituted.
Under Allred's plan, the Idaho would look to the other states for guidance in crafting the policies necessary for shirking federal regulations. States like Utah and Colorado, Allred noted, are working toward opting out. If he becomes governor and institutes his plan, he said that he would work quickly enough to meet the 2013 deadline, but slow enough to get other states ahead of Idaho to allow his administration to learn from their work.
"There’s a balancing act that we need to do here," said Allred.
Following the meeting, Allred spoke with IdahoReporter.com about why he believes the state should take matters of health care into its own hands. He also responded to a Rasmussen poll released last week that has him trailing presumptive Republican candidate Otter in the race for governor. See what Allred had to say:
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