Idaho GOP voices opposition to governor’s support of a state-based health exchange


House Majority Leader Rep, Mike Moyle, R-Star, says he has no indication that the 2014 session of the Idaho Legislature will expand Medicaid.

The Idaho Republican Party is officially opposed to Gov. Butch Otter’s plans for a state-based health insurance exchange. And just to make things perfectly clear, the party staff has now notified every elected Republican in the Legislature about its position for the second time since the start of the current legislative session.

“I think it’s incumbent upon every organization that is involved in developing public party to make their positions known, and to do so as often as they like,” said Alex Labeau, head of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI). Labeau’s organization supports Otter’s insurance exchange agenda, yet he tells IdahoReporter.com that “I do not begrudge the Republican Party at all.”

After months of deliberation, Otter announced on Dec. 11, 2012, that he supports the creation of a state-based health insurance exchange as a means of bringing Idaho in compliance with federal Obamacare health insurance mandates.

“This is not a battle of my choosing,” Otter said in a written announcement issued on that day. “Despite our best efforts, the law remains in place, and almost certainly will for the foreseeable future,” he said, in announcing his decision for how Idaho will comply with the law.

Prior to Otter’s announcement, Idaho’s state government had been in limbo over how to respond to the federal mandates, which require each state to either establish a health insurance exchange on its own, leave it to the federal government to set it up or pursue a “hybrid” approach where state and federal agencies collaborate to create one.

“There will be a health insurance exchange in Idaho, the only question is who will build it,” Otter said in his December statement.

A week prior to Otter’s announcement, the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation officially announced its opposition to a state-based insurance exchange, stating that “we support a joint resolution of the State House of Representatives and Senate to the federal government stating that the state of Idaho will not comply.”

Then, shortly after Otter’s State of the State address in January, the Idaho Republican Party officially stated its opposition.

Now, for the second time since Jan. 7, the state Republican Party office has sent to Republican members of the Legislature its official resolution that opposes the insurance exchange. The first notification of the resolution was delivered electronically to legislators’ emails, but the second delivery was sent in hard copy format to legislators’ ground mail boxes in the Statehouse.

“These resolutions were passed by the State Central Committee on Jan. 5 as recommendations for the Legislature,” said Josh Whitworth of the Idaho Republican Party. The resolution to oppose the governor’s insurance exchange notes that “providing healthcare or health insurance is not the proper role of government as it is the function of the free market and local churches and charities.”

It notes that “the Idaho Republican State Central Committee does hereby urge the Idaho Legislature to reject implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) in its entirety.”

“I find it to be very interesting that the same people who argue that Idaho must take back federal lands from Washington want to hand over personal health insurance decisions to a federal health insurance exchange controlled in Washington,” noted Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise.

The battle over a state-based health exchange will be heard by the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Auditorium.

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