Early this afternoon, activists plan to gather at the Capitol in Boise to protest Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s decision to have the state set up a health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act. It’s an unfortunate waste of time.
The governor and the protesters had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would find the law unconstitutional. It did not. They had hoped voters would elect a president who would repeal the law. They did not.
Knowing a bad poker hand when he sees one, Otter folded and agreed with a bipartisan panel’s finding that it would be best for the state to establish the exchange, rather than try to draw a royal flush when all of the aces have been played.
His pragmatic announcement on Tuesday was met with predictable defiance from ideologues who don’t care who is harmed in their quixotic quest to ignore the cards that have been dealt. In fact, they seem hell-bent on changing the game to 52-card pickup.
Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, is promising to continue the fight throughout the legislative session. State Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton, said, “My inclination is to resist,” adding that since the feds mandate the exchanges, they should run them, which is an odd position for a states-rights politician to take.
And so the Republican Liberty Caucus of Idaho, whose vice chairman is Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, put out a notice about the rally, according to Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman. Hart, of course, is a veteran practitioner of longshot protests, as his immense bill for back taxes can attest.
Fortunately, cooler heads are in charge of the state’s affairs. Even those who detest the law ought to be able to see the wisdom in trying to tailor it to Idaho’s specific needs, rather than having the feds parachute in with a one-size-fits-all plan.
As Lt. Gov. Brad Little told the Statesman, “We lost at the Supreme Court. We lost at the ballot box. We’re trying to make lemonade out of lemons.”
The establishment of health care exchanges need not be so bitter. States, whether run by Republicans or Democrats, have been flirting with the idea for a long time. Now the feds are offering money to do so. As a result, people whose employers don’t offer coverage should be able to purchase an affordable plan in the individual insurance market.
Washington state’s efforts in establishing an exchange are well under way. Idaho will have to hustle because the law kicks in on Jan. 1, 2014. There’s no time to relitigate or reargue the case. If Idaho can’t present a plan soon, the federal government will take over.
Otter won’t be present for today’s rally. He will be in Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo. Let’s hope this is the last roundup for Obamacare protesters, too.