House member wants legislative involvement in oversight of state insurance exchange


Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, is said by colleagues to be a leading contender to become the new director of the Idaho Department of Insurance.

A member of the Idaho House of Representatives has introduced legislation that would place legislators in oversight positions if a state insurance exchange actually comes to pass.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday morning, Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, proposed legislation that would expand the number of board members of an insurance exchange from 16 to 18, and would include one member of the House of Representatives and one member of the Senate.

“We choose to protect our state sovereignty,” Malek said, “and we understand that protecting our sovereignty is not a passive endeavor.”

The House member would be appointed by the speaker of the House, while the Senate member would be appointed by the Senate president pro tempore. “We believe this is the best way to deal with the realities of Obamacare,” Malek added.

Currently, Gov. Butch Otter’s insurance exchange legislation, which is being debated in the Senate, has fallen under criticism because it allows for oversight of an exchange by the executive branch of the state government, but does not allow for oversight from members of the Legislature.

The idea of adding some legislative element to the oversight group is a slight improvement, according to Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, but it ignores the fact that an exchange is a flawed concept. Adding two members of the Legislature “doesn’t improve the bill. It is still a problem piece of legislation. It makes some minor improvement to the legislation that’s being considered, but beyond that we’re still opposed to the way this has come together.”

Last week, during open testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee, former state Sen. Rod Beck of Boise also testified against the Senate insurance exchange bill, noting that it denies the Legislature any oversight over an exchange’s funding and operations. “Why would you give up your ability to regulate and appropriate funds for this exchange?” he asked the committee.

The one vote opposing the Senate insurance exchange bill in the commerce committee came from Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise. “My no vote was a point of disappointment with the legislation that we have before us,” Durst told IdahoReporter.com after the committee 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 last week’s hearing, Durst had noted a concern similar to Beck’s, and stated “why is it that the governor, the executive branch, seems to have final authority over this?”

Malek’s proposal will now be debated in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

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