Sen. John Tippets, R-Montpelier, opening debate on the health insurance exchange bill, said, “Senators, here we are. We’re going to vote today, at least I hope we’re going to vote today, on an issue that we’ve been debating for … months.” He said, “If we had an ability to opt out, most of us would. But we don’t have that option. Given the options we do have, I believe that a state-based exchange is a better option than a federal exchange for Idaho.”
He read from the bill, which includes this statement of legislative intent: “It is the public policy of the state of Idaho to actively resist federal actions that would limit or override state sovereignty under the 10th amendment of the United States constitution. Through this legislation, the state of Idaho asserts its sovereignty by refusing to surrender decision-making authority over health care issues, which are matters appropriately left to states and individual citizens. The purpose of this chapter is to establish a state-created, market-driven health insurance exchange that will facilitate the selection and purchase of individual and employer health benefit plans. The creation of a state-based health insurance exchange will provide an Idaho-specific solution that fits the unique needs of the state of Idaho. Participation in the exchange is voluntary in that no Idaho citizen or employer shall be required by this chapter to purchase a health benefit plan through the exchange. Creation of the exchange and its operation is deemed a public purpose intended to enhance Idaho residents' choice regarding options and access to health insurance.”
He noted, “The exchange must be financially self-supporting.” It could have been created as a state agency, Tippets said, but Gov. Butch Otter didn’t want to grow the state government. Because the state is prohibited from creating a corporation, the bill sets the exchange up as an independent body corporate and politic, a quasi-governmental agency, like the Idaho Housing and Finance Agency or the State Insurance Fund.
“This legislation creates an open market,” Tippets said. “Anyone can offer a product for sale as long as they’re willing to meet the requirements. The Department of Insurance anticipates there will be dozens, dozens of plans offered through the exchange. That may not be the case with a federal exchange.”
Tippets said he disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the national health care reform law. But, he said, “The U.S. Constitution gives the Supreme Court the ability to determine the legality of the actions of Congress, and not me.” He said, “If we do not create a state exchange, they will create a federal exchange for us – they will create a federal exchange for us. They’re already working on it.”
Said Tippets, “We will have an exchange on Jan. 1st of next year. The only question is whether it will be a federal exchange, a state-based exchange, or some combination of the two.” When Idahoans are informed that the state will have either a federal exchange or a state exchange, he said, 74 percent in a recent statewide survey backed moving ahead with a state plan. He said, “I choose a state exchange because I believe it would best serve the citizens of the state of Idaho.”