At the health insurance exchange hearing this morning in the Abraham Lincoln Auditorium, time was allowed first for the governor’s chief of staff, David Hensley, to explain the bill, and for a leading opponent, Wayne Hoffman, to criticize it. Hensley told the House Health & Welfare Committee, “There’s really three things I’d like you to remember. First, there will be an exchange in the state of Idaho. The only question is whether it’ll be a state-based, federal or hybrid exchange. Second, there will be a market outside the exchange to purchase health insurance. And third, starting in 2014, there will be market reforms or changes that impact all health insurance plans sold in and outside of the exchange.”
Hensley went through the bill, HB 248, which combines the governor’s earlier bill that passed the Senate and the proposals from 16 House GOP freshmen, along with some additional changes. He highlighted some things the exchange couldn't do, under the bill.”It cannot ask the state for state funds. It cannot tax or encumber state assets,” Hensley said. “It has to be a voluntary marketplace, in that it cannot force anyone to buy insurance, nor can it prohibit carriers or producers from participating in the exchange as long as they meet the requirements of applicable law. … It cannot inquire about gun or ammunition use, possession or storage. And it has to certify to the governor and to the director the security of exchange users’ personal information before it can proceed.”
Hensley spoke for about five minutes, then answered questions from committee members for another 15 minutes. Hoffman then spoke for 10 minutes; the committee had no questions for him.
“You’re getting told that Idaho will have a seat at the table if you create an insurance exchange. Well not really,” Hoffman said. He said that idea belongs “in the same room with all the unicorns and the elves – it doesn’t exist, it’s in fantasy land.” He criticized a section of the bill that encourages hiring and contracting within Idaho. “That sounds really nice, and it’s touted as being pro-business, but actually it’s extremely anti-free market,” he said.
Hoffman told the committee, “Let’s be clear about the Affordable Care Act. It is socialism. You can’t fix it, you can’t outrun it. … If you accept some of it you will clear a path to all of it.”
Public testimony is now under way; those speaking are being limited to 3 minutes apiece. First to speak was Greg Ferch, who told the committee he agrees with Hoffman. “There is no such thing as federal money,” he told the lawmakers. “The money that’s used to purchase loyalty by the federal government originally came out of our pockets or ultimately ends up as debt.” You can read Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey's account here for some more of the testimony.
The committee plans to take testimony today for four hours, with a 5 minute break at 9 a.m. Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley, told the audience, “We may or may not get done today. I have scheduled hearings for tomorrow if necessary, because I think it’s very important to hear from each of you.”