Committee forwards health exchange bill to full Senate

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[post_thumbnail] Sen. Branden Durst was the lone committee member to vote against the insurance exchange bill.

“I am so deeply disappointed that Gov. Butch Otter is doing this,” noted Boise resident Joe Romer. “He now owns Obamacare, which will from here on be known as ‘Ottercare.’”

Despite Romer’s impassioned testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday, the committee nonetheless voted in favor of sending the governor’s insurance exchange bill to the floor of the full Senate for a vote. Every committee member voted in favor of sending the bill forward, except Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise.

At the beginning of approximately one hour of open testimony, Sen. John Tippets, R-Montpelier, the committee chairman, announced that “we will rotate pro and con speakers this time.” In Monday’s committee hearing, every speaker offering testimony opposed the legislation except one.

“We work with over 1,000 insurance brokers,” said Scott Leavitt of the Idaho Association of Underwriters. “We stand in support of a state-based exchange.” Leavitt was one of several individuals from the health care, health insurance and health care administration industries to speak in favor of the legislation.  All those offering supportive testimony identified themselves as being from the health care sector, while those who were opposed spoke mainly as private citizens and did not identify themselves as being a part of the industry.

Two former state legislators spoke against the bill, including former Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls. “My husband and I are business owners, and we have grave reservations about a state-based insurance exchange,” McGeachin told the committee. “It is apparent to me that a state exchange will be subject to federal control.”

Former Republican Sen. Rod Beck, Boise,  also testified against the bill, noting that it leaves oversight of an insurance exchange to the executive branch, with no legislative oversight. “Why would you give up your ability to regulate, and appropriate funds for this exchange?” he asked the committee.

The one “no” vote from the committee was cast by Durst.“My no vote was a point of disappointment with the legislation that we have before us,” Durst told IdahoReporter.com after the hearing. “Legislators need to think very carefully whether or not we want to abdicate our authority to a governing board.  That’s not a place where I’m willing to go—yet.” In Monday’s hearing, Durst had noted a concern similar to Beck’s, and sated “why is it that the governor, the executive branch, seems to have final authority over this?”

Durst further noted to IdahoReporter.com that “we (members of the Legislature) have a responsibility to our constituents to be the gate keepers of health care policy and we’re letting that go. I strongly support a state exchange, but I refuse to vote for a bad bill.”

The bill now will be heard before the full Senate.

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