Republican candidates in Idaho’s primary are being surveyed to gauge their fealty to the state GOP’s platform, which includes a call to repeal Obamacare and resist implementation.
But party officials should take their cue from the realists among them. While they may not like the law, they see that the battle is over and further resistance is counterproductive.
“It is the law, so I’m trying to work in that context,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told USA Today.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers told the S-R editorial board much the same on Thursday, saying the law is likely here to stay and the focus should be on reforming the exchanges to offer more choices and ensure that the newly covered can gain access to doctors.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who wisely refused to sign the loyalty oath, doesn’t like Obamacare either, but he knows when it’s time to stop debating and start governing. He has supported the state Legislature’s decision to establish its own exchange.
Idaho is one of only two states – the other is New Mexico – to press forward with a state-run exchange after having the feds run it for the first year. On Tuesday, Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, wrote an op-ed for the Idaho Falls Post Register explaining why that was the best move for Idaho citizens.
Hill makes it clear that he opposes the law, but notes that the debate has been waged over two presidential elections and has survived a challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court. Now the issue is whether Idaho wants control.
“The choice last year was never between a state-run exchange and no exchange at all,” he writes about the Legislature’s decision.
This simple point eludes candidates who continue to clamor for resistance. As Hill notes, “Those states that ignored the law relinquished control to the federal government. Idaho refused to surrender its decision-making authority over health care issues.”
The feds charge resistant states a 3.5 percent premium tax on insurance policies to finance the exchanges. Idaho charges 1.5 percent to raise the money it will need to operate its site. The state hopes to be off the federal exchange by the next enrollment period, which begins in November. By having its own exchange, Idaho will have more control over what insurers must cover, offer better assistance to consumers and save money on operating costs.
Idaho had one of the best sign-up rates in the country for private insurance, which indicates the glaring need for coverage in a low-income state. It could further help its citizens – and score significant savings on county and state ledgers – by accepting the feds’ expanded Medicaid offering, too.
The irony of the party purity test is that it pushes the state into forfeiting an important tenet of the Republican platform: local control. While bashing anything Obama-related wins applause lines, it provides no tangible benefits to Idaho citizens.
Pragmatic conservatives have figured this out.