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Editorial: Idaho health care exchange foes must face reality

The quixotic battle against the Affordable Care Act continues in the Idaho Legislature, but at least more legislators have stopped tilting at windmills. That counts for progress in a state that has shown a willingness to pluck dollars from taxpayers to replenish broken lances.

Don Quixote said, “Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”

This would appear to be the mindset of lawmakers who refuse to accept reality. It doesn’t help that U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador flew into Boise last week to bolster flagging hopes. Labrador met with two legislators to explain his opposition to Idaho establishing health care exchanges, the Idaho Statesman reported. This unusual intervention from a member of Congress sparked speculation that Labrador was sowing seeds for a gubernatorial run against Gov. Butch Otter, who is making a pragmatic push for exchanges.

Whatever the motivation, the visit didn’t dissuade the Senate Commerce Committee from endorsing exchanges on an 8-1 vote Thursday. The two North Idaho senators on the panel, Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, voted with the majority. However, it was in the House that the exchanges died last year on ideological grounds.

Many Republicans remain wounded over the fact that they’ve lost every significant battle on this issue. The U.S. Supreme Court did not strike down the law. Republicans did not win the presidency or take control of the U.S. Senate. The U.S. House has taken more than 30 votes to repeal the law.

It ain’t happening.

But like the delusional and overconfident Man of La Mancha, hold-out Republicans refuse to recognize that their quest for ideological chivalry is fruitless, that they’ve been defeated by legitimate political and legal processes. Otter understands this, which is why he wants to make the best of it by having the state run its own exchange.

If the hold-outs can’t respond to common sense, perhaps they can be motivated by dollars. There are only two ways this can go: Idaho can shape and operate the health care exchange, where people will begin purchasing policies next year, or feds will do it, which may cost three times more. A $20 million federal grant is still available for Idaho legislators. It would be foolish to turn it down.

Otter’s chief of staff, David Hensley, put it succinctly, “If we can save Idahoans money, which we believe we can, by operating this in a more efficient manner, we should.”

Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, says he loathes the Affordable Care Act, but correctly notes that if the feds take over, the state loses the opportunity to infuse the exchanges with free market principles or other features the state might desire.

We believe health care reform needs some changes, especially in the form of cost containment, but refusing to acknowledge its existence solves nothing.

Neither does dreaming the impossible dream.

To respond to this editorial online, go to and click on Opinion under the Topics menu.

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Editorial: Washington state lawmakers scramble to keep public in the dark

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