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Eye On Boise

Nonini: Let insurance firms set up, fund their own health exchange

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, proposed a resolution this morning for neither a state-run health insurance exchange nor a federal one. Instead, he'd tell the health insurance industry that if they want an exchange, they can set one up and fund it themselves. “I'm not a fan of doing any kind of an exchange, but if the industry wants to do an exchange … we don't need to be involved in it,” declared Nonini, who proposed his concurrent resolution for introduction in the House Education Committee, which he chairs. Nonini said, “I think we're just going down a terrible road. … I'm willing to say no and not just no but heck no.”

Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, said, “I think this is the best idea yet.” Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise, asked, “What has been holding back the industry for the last 25 years? … I'm wondering why that hasn't taken place.” Nonini said that's a question for the industry, not for him.

Nonini said he joined five other lawmakers in a working group to figure out legislation on an exchange. “We met twice, the first week of the session and the second week of the session, and could come to no agreement on how we might move forward. Since then, Rep. (Fred) Wood has drafted a number of pieces of legislation.” The latest called for a “private exchange that was outside the compliance of the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “But as I've gone through and dissected it, I think every part of it continues to drive up health costs. … As someone who's spent 25 years in the insurance industry, I just don't see where the legislation that's been put in front of us does anything to drive down health costs. … It seems that the industry is the ones promoting an exchange, I don't see anything stopping them.”

Cronin called Nonini's proposal “absolutely absurd,” and said the industry hasn't solved the problem in the decades in which the exchange idea has been floated.

Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, said, “I think this resolution really makes sense at this point. … I don't think we should do anything about a state exchange right now, and just hope that we win that case, and I think we've got a pretty good chance of winning that case.” Bateman was referring to the legal challenge of the national health care reform law, in which Idaho is a party.

The committee voted 13-3 along party lines to introduce the bill, which Nonini said he expects to be referred to the House Health & Welfare Committee.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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