Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Idaho’s new state-based health insurance exchange board gathered for its first meeting today, and each of its 19 members had already received a somewhat surprising welcome – an anonymous call threatening a lawsuit. “I got a call from a guy who did not want to identify what firm he worked for,” said Stephen Weeg, the board’s interim chairman. “He just wanted to give us all a notice that within three months’ time we would all be sued for being on this board – I think he called everybody on this board, just to let us know that we were already in trouble.” Weeg said his first reaction was, “Wait a minute – we’re just doing what the law requires”/Betsy Russell, SR. More here.
Question: Are you ready for the state health exchange?
Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, spoke out against HB 248, Gov. Butch Otter’s state health insurance exchange bill, saying he rejects the idea that health care reform is “the law of the land.” Said Vick, “Those states that opposed slavery, did they say, well I guess the best we can do is when those slaves get into our free states, is make sure that we take care of ‘em well, clean ‘em up and send ‘em back home to their slave owners? No they did not. They formed the underground railroad and they got those people to Canada.” He brought up civil rights icon Rosa Parks and her resistance to segregation laws/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.
- Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, via Facebook:
Question: Are you bothered that exchange opponents are invoking name and memory of Rosa Parks this session?
At my request and after careful, deliberate consideration, the Idaho Senate recently approved legislation affirming my choice of a state-based health insurance exchange.
That bill now goes to the Idaho House of Representatives, where debate figures to be just as passionate. That's understandable, since most members of the Idaho Legislature share my intense opposition to the so-called Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Fans of the Grand Slam breakfast, fear not. The Denny’s franchise owner who told a reporter that he would be adding a 5 percent “Obamacare” surcharge to diners’ meals has walked back that statement. John Metz, who owns around 40 Denny’s and multiple Dairy Queen Locations in Florida, as well as a franchise called Hurricane Grill & Wings, made news and ruffled diner food fans’ feathers when he told the Huffington Post that he planned to add a 5 percent surcharge at the start of next year in addition to cutting back some full-time employees to part time. His reasoning, he said, was that the measures are necessary to offset the costs of the Affordable Care Act, which goes into full effect in 2014/Kyle Blaine, ABC News. More here. (Photo: AP Business Wire)
Question: Would you frequent a restaurant that cut staff hours and added a 5% Obamacare tax surcharge?
We are hoping to see an announcement from Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter later this week that the state intends to do everything it can to create a state-based health insurance exchange within the bounds of Obamacare. That was the recommendation last week from a group he appointed to study the matter, make a recommendation and, in so doing, give him some political cover from the far right ideologues that abound in the Legislature. One such, Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation was on the panel and one of its two negative votes. Creating such an exchange, given the experience in other states, is neither simple nor easy, if done well. Getting started as soon as possible is advisable.The alternative, doing nothing and waiting to see whether Mitt Romney is elected and whether he can dismantle Obamacare, is absurd/Lee Rozen, Moscow-Pullman Daily News. More here.
Question: Do you support the continued dilly-dallying by the Otter administration and Republican leaders of the Idaho Legislature on Obamacare?
About four in 10 U.S. adults believe that President Obama's healthcare reform law will create “death panels” to decide patients' fitness for care, according to a new Associated Press-GfK survey. Support for the widely challenged claim has remained steady since 2010, when 39 percent believed “death panels” would result from the healthcare law. Today, 41 percent say the same is true. Overall, most people believe the law will go into effect in spite of Republican pledges to repeal it. About seven in 10 adults said the law will be implemented with some changes, while 11 percent believe it will be implemented as passed/Elise Viebeck, The Hill. More here.
Question: Do you believe that President Obama's healthcare reform law will create “death panels”?
Yet again, the media are trying to convince Idahoans their purity of fact outshines that of those nefarious, dastardly, ideologically-driven legislators and folks like me who are refusing to accept another big government idea. A story from the Spokesman-Review newspaper, reprinted statewide by the Associated Press, claimed that Idaho taxpayers would save $390 million were the state to expand the Medicaid program as proposed by Obamacare. The savings claim is entirely bogus. The claim comes from a reporter’s “crunching of the numbers” from the local-state indigent care program. The reporter, in short, presumed certain things about the current program’s cost and the federal government’s promise to pick up nearly all the costs associated with the Medicaid expansion for the next several years. The story caused the usual editorial page writers to line up for the walk off the same cliff of self-righteousness/Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation. More here
Question: So who can you believe here?
Every Tuesday morning at 9, they file in, some crying, some defiant – all with big medical bills they can’t pay, pleading with Kootenai County commissioners for help. “It’s at times frustrating, and at times gut-wrenching,” said Commissioner Dan Green, “especially when I have people that really need the help and then they don’t qualify for the program. And then I see people that we are forced to help that think it’s some sort of entitlement.” The emotional scene is played out in each of Idaho’s 44 counties, which state law makes the last resort for uninsured patients who can’t pay their medical bills. Idaho’s unique system for paying the catastrophic medical bills of indigent patients – which relies solely on local property taxes and the state’s general fund – makes it the state that would possibly benefit the most from the expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. The legislation would expand the federal-state medical insurance program for the poor to cover the same population that now is at the mercy of county commissioners, and do it almost entirely with federal money/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here. (AP photo)
Question: So should Idaho continue to follow those opposed to Supreme Court-approved Obamacare? Or embrace the program and save the state and county millions of dollars?
For the next several months, I expect Obamacare to dominate public policy discussions both nationally and on a state level. Regardless of the outcome of the November election, state lawmakers will still be faced with two questions: First, should the state implement a health insurance exchange as part of the president’s health care overhaul? Second, should the state expand Medicaid to include more affluent people than under the current program that generally provides health coverage for the poor and disabled? These aren’t just public policy questions for lawmakers; these are questions for every day Idahoans whose legislators will be asked in January to implement Obamacare. So we wanted to know what the public thinks—of Obamacare generally and of the implantation of the law specifically. In a public opinion poll conducted at the end of August, we asked 600 Idaho registered voters whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the health care law was “good for the country.” A mere 23 percent of respondents said “yes” while 61 percent said “no”/Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation. More here.
DFO: Yeah, I know we discussed this as part of a post by blogger Dennis Mansfield. Here, I'm offering Hoffman's view of the poll.
It’s fair to criticize Idaho leaders for just starting the process of establishing a health insurance exchange when so many other states, including Washington, are much further along. It’s tempting to let gambling lawmakers face the consequences of putting all their chips on “Supreme Court repeal.” Problem is, it’s uninsured Idahoans who would be harmed. So to the extent the Obama administration can still bail out Idaho, it should. The Affordable Care Act included provisions for setting up insurance exchanges. States could apply for money and establish their own (provided certain federal guidelines were met), or they could let the feds do it for them. The idea is to create an Expedia-type experience, where consumers can log on and comparison shop for insurance plans/Spokesman-Review Editorial Board. More here.
Item: Goedde: Doubts about exchange: Legislator serving on health care reform committee/Alecia Warren, Coeur d'Alene Press
More Info: A Coeur d'Alene legislator tapped with analyzing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has doubts about a state insurance exchange. Sen. John Goedde is among 12 Idaho lawmakers and health insurance experts selected for a committee that will recommend how Idaho should carry out aspects of President Obama's new health care reform. Cobbled by Gov. Butch Otter, the group is tasked with weighing whether Idaho should create its own health insurance exchange, or participate in a federally run version. The reform only allows for one or the other, Goedde said. There are ostensible challenges to both, he added.
Question: Will Idaho take the proper steps to deal with court-approved Obamacare in good faith?
WASHINGTON — Pressing an election-year point, Republicans pushed yet another bill through the House on Wednesday to repeal the nation’s two-year-old health care law, a maneuver that forced Democrats to choose between President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement and a public that is persistently skeptical of its value.
The vote was 244-185, with five Democrats defectors siding with Republicans. By Republican count, the vote marked the 33rd time in 18 months that the tea party-infused GOP majority has tried to eliminate, defund or otherwise scale back the program — opponents scornfully call it “Obamacare” — since Republicans took control of the House.
Will the Affordable Care Act become the undoing of Obama's re-election bid or the making of it?
OLYMPIA – In a world of e-mails and Twitter tweets, it’s usually nice to get a real letter. Except, maybe, if it’s a letter telling you to do something that you’ve already said you aren’t gonna do, or not do something you’ve said you will.
This is the case with the letter that U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and a cohort of other Republican senators and congresspersons, sent to Gov. Chris Gregoire, urging her and her 49 fellow governors to “join us in resisting a centralized government approach to health care reform.” . . .
To read the rest of this item, or to commen, go inside the blog.
- Monday Poll: One-fifth of Hucks Nation buys illegal fireworks. Tsk. Tsk. 31 of 143 respondents (21.68%) said that they buy illegal fireworks for the Fourth of July celebration. 110 of 143 respondents (76.92%) said they don't. 2 were undecided.
- Obamacare: 67 of 116 respondents (57.76%) consider Obamacare to be a tax increase. 44 of 116 respondents (37.93%) consider it to be a penalty/fee. 5 were undecided.
- Today's Poll (idea borrowed from our good friends at OpenCDA-dot-Com): Who will be the next Coeur d'Alene mayor (Steve Adams, Sandi Bloem, Jennifer Drake, Ron Edinger, Dan Gookin, Mike Kennedy, Sara Meyer, Rita Sims-Snyder or Mary Souza)?
OLYMPIA — In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have a split in their party's candidates for governor.
Attorney General Rob McKenna, by far the GOP frontrunner for governor, joined one of the key lawsuits that because he doubted the constitutionality of the individual mandate, said post-decision that that question was answered. Time to get on with implementation and stop talking about a wholesale repeal of the law, he said in a press conference.
Shahram Hadian, an Iranian-American Christian pastor is a long-shot to be sure, but is trying to close the gap by vowing to be as resolute against federal health care reform and “join other fiscally conservative, freedom loving, citizen defending, courageous governors to rise up against the implementation of this unconstitutional and outrageous law.” He lists some current Republican governors who he says are refusling to implement Obamacare in their states, and includes Idaho's Butch Otter in that list. (In fact Otter hasn't said much post-decision because he was out of the office when it came down, other than he's not calling a special session to deal with setting up a health insurance exchange or other looming provisions of the federal law.)
Hadian isn't the only other Republican sharing the primary ballot with McKenna, but he's the only other one with anything close to an active campaign, and the only other one allowed to address the GOP state convention. He a sent out a fund-raising appeal and press release late last week based on fighting federal health care reform: “As the next governor, I will invoke the 10th Amendment rights and fight tooth and nail in refusing to implement any part of Obamacare. Period.”
It's a strong appeal to the Tea Party wing of the GOP. But it seems to ignore the fact that unlike Idaho, the Washington Legislature has already set the state on course to have a health insurance exchange in time for the federal deadline. So he'd have to convince the Lege to repeal that law, toss out that work and give up the promise of federal funds for the exchange.
Of course, if Mitt Romney wins the White House and Republicans take control of both house of Congress, that all may be taken care of in the other Washington. But that would be the case for McKenna… or even Democrat Jay Inslee, should he win.
A strong majority of Americans say the individual mandate is a tax, rather than a penalty or a fee, according to a CNN-ORC poll released on Monday. Sixty percent said they view the individual mandate as a tax, versus 39 that said it’s not a tax. Republicans jumped on the court’s ruling that the healthcare law's individual mandate, which the Obama administration originally pitched as a penalty or fee for those who don’t purchase insurance, is constitutional under Congress’s power to tax, calling it evidence that President Obama has raised taxes on the middle class/Jonathan Easley, The Hill. More here.
In a church pew, faith is divine. But is it any way to run a state? For almost two years, from Gov. C. L. (Butch) Otter on down, it was an article of faith that national health care reform - Obamacare - would be struck down as unconstitutional. So instead of preparing for its implementation in 2014, Idaho's leaders fought it. They resisted it. They ignored it. With the rhetoric of death squads and states rights ringing in their ears, Otter and the GOP rode to victory in the 2010 election. The following year, the Idaho Legislature flirted with the flammable mixture of defiance and anarchy - masquerading under the dubious principle of nullification. Otter danced right up to the edge of violating the U.S. Constitution, then vetoed a watered-down nullification bill and embodied most of its contents in an executive order/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
Question: Should the Should Butch Otter and the past to Idaho Legislatures have taken Obamacare more seriously?
There was a wide range of reaction among Washington politicians to Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Here’s an example of how wide:
Jay Inslee, who voted for the law as a congressman and now wants to be Washington’s next governor, and insisted he wasn’t surprised by the ruling: “I always believed this was constitutional.”
That would seem to make him significantly more confident than the president, and four justices on the court.
Michael Baumgartner, a state senator who voted against bills to set up and expand a health benefit exchange this year and last – and wants to be Washington’s next U.S. senator – was surprised: “Today, the Supreme Court did something none of us expected – they held that the Affordable Care Act is not in violation of the Constitution.”
Baumgartner apparently never talked with Inslee.
Idaho politicos have spent two years viewing President Barack Obama’s health care law with scornful suspicion. That is, when they haven’t covered their eyes and tried to wish the law away. State lawmakers spent the 2011 session indulging in constitutional conceit, convincing themselves that states possessed the power to “nullify” any federal law that they don’t like. In 2012, these same lawmakers ducked the idea of creating a state-run health insurance exchange — an online marketplace to enable individuals and small businesses to shop for insurance, and a component of the federal health care law. They explained away the dodge by saying they wanted to see how the Supreme Court would rule on health care. Clearly, many lawmakers fully expected the court to toss the law aside. We all know how that worked out/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman (editorial for Sunday). More here. (2010 AP file photo: President Obama embraces Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after he signed the health care bill)
Question: Have Idaho lawmakers acted responsibly in preparing for Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare?
Nearly 12 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark ruling, upholding much of what they call “Obamacare,” members of the Boise Tea Party broke out their tri-corner hats and Don't Tread on Me flags to protest the decision Thursday evening on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse. Chad Inman, president of Tea Party Boise, went through a laundry list of his group's priorities. “No. 1, repeal Obamacare, the largest tax increase in history,” Inman told the crowd. “No. 2, vote for congressmen that will overturn Obamacare.” Inman followed with his other priorities, including an elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Education and Energy. One of the tea partiers, Jim Haskin, complete with his misspelled “empeach” sign, insisted that Obama was what he called an “insider” but when Citydesk asked Haskin about any man or woman becoming an insider once they were elected into office, he thought for a moment/George Prentice, Boise Weekly. More here. (AP file photo from 2010 Boise Tea Party event)
Question: Is it time to “empeach” Barack Obama?
lot of people are threatening to leave the country. The Twitterverse was alive with people proclaiming that they were so upset over the Supreme Court’s upholding of Obamacare that they were moving to Canada. Rush Limbaugh threatened to move to Costa Rica. This ruling had the critics packing their bags, hypothetically and sarcastically. “SCOTUS holds up free health care for everyone?!” Tweeted one twit. “Screw this commie country, I’m moving to Canada.” Some of these people presumably know that Canada and Costa Rica have universal, socialist health care, and are operating at some other level of sarcasm – perhaps mocking liberal threats to leave the country if Dubya got elected. But some of them clearly didn’t see the irony in fleeing to a socialist country to protest “socialism,” and liberals had a lot of fun at their expense. It was more or less standard political warfare, cheap-shot edition. But, seriously, there are some people who ought to consider moving to Canada: poor kids in Idaho/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: Have you ever thought of moving to Canada?
As usual, Jon Stewart properly skewered CNN for botching the announcement of yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act.
The perils of jumping to analysis before one knows the facts.
Retired state Supreme Court Justice Gerry Alexander was in Spokane Thursday for the last scheduled meeting of the city's Use of Force Commission.
Afterward, we asked him about his thoughts about this morning's U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld most of the Affordable Care Act.
“I had previously thought that they would strike the mandate down,” said Alexander, outside the Spokane City Council chambers. “It seemed to me that they were taking the Commerce Clause where it hadn't gone before.”
Alexander, who was appointed to the Use of Force Commission by Mayor David Condon, said he followed the case, but hadn't read the ruling Thursday afternoon. The majority of justices agreed with Alexander about the Commerce Clause, but a different majority upheld the law under Congress's taxing authority.
“I felt all along they could pass a tax for this,” Alexander said.
OLYMPIA – When a divided Supreme Court settled the question of whether federal health care reform is constitutional Thursday, it turned up the spotlight on the issue for Washington’s hotly contested governor’s race.
Now the question is, how long before that light dims?
Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna, one of the original plaintiffs in the failed multi-state challenge, said he was surprised at the ruling but insisted he was relieved, not disappointed.
Former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, Inslee’s likely Democratic opponent for governor this November, was happy: “I always believed this was constitutional. I had no qualms in voting for this bill.”
Gov. Chris Gregoire, who disagreed so strongly with McKenna’s decision to draw Washington into the court battle that she filed as a “friend of the court” on the other side, was both celebratory and caustic.
As his Republican opponent continues to call for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Democratic congressional candidate Rich Cowan said it's time to “put aside the partisan bickering.”“
Cowan's likely opponent in November, four term Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, was one of the go-to commentators for the House GOP on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today and called for Congress to “repeal and replace the law” in the face of the narrow decision that said the law is constitutional. She also blasted some scatological messages she said that came from national Democrats in the wake of the decision, and sent out a fund-raising appeal for the National Republican Congressional Campaign that asked those who also find the messages crass to donate $3 to “show Democrats what Mom-power looks like.”
Cowan said the court “did the right thing for our health care today” and cited some popular features that will continue, such as extended coverage for young adults on their parents' insurance and an end to coverage denials for pre-existing conditions. And he played the “I understand these things because I'm in the private sector” card.
“As a business owner I have experienced first hand how important basic, affordable health care is to employees,” he said in a press release. “here are parts of this law that can be improved, like cost containment and access issues, but it is time to put aside the partisan bickering and put America back to work.”
There will be days and days of analysis – some of it even important – of today’s historic Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, or as those who hate the law say – Obamacare. We’ll hear every possible interpretation and then some. Here is my initial take on one sliver of the story; the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion upholding the law, went against four other conservatives on the Court with whom he often finds compatibility and maybe – just maybe – wrote himself firmly into the history books. I think most Court watchers would say that a Chief Justice – any Chief Justice – always wants to be in the majority. Roberts worked hard to get there even while taking pains to throw a rhetorical political bone to those who will see him as an updated version of former Justice David Souter, an appointee of the first George Bush who served to infuriate many conservatives/Marc Johnson, The Johnson Report. More here. (AP photo of Chief Justice John Roberts with President Barack Obama during 2010 State of the Union speech)
Question: Do you think Roberts made the right kind of history?
If this morning's CNN fiasco on announcing the Affordable Care Act wasn't a good enough reminder about how bad the media frenzy can get over something like a major Supreme Court ruling, this segment from The Daily Show on Wednesday night showed how silly the news network talking heads have been all week.
Gov. Butch Otter's statement re: Supreme Court approval of Obamacare: “Although five Supreme Court justices upheld Obamacare and the individual mandate under Congress’s power to tax, it does not mean it’s the right thing to do. Obamacare has been bad for America from the beginning. This is a sad day for self-determination and for individual liberty. Change is now in the hands of the American people and we must elect a new president and congressional candidates who will repeal Obamacare and protect our freedom to remain the architects of our own destiny”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here. (AP photo: An Obamacare opponent demonstrates outside the Supreme Court in Washington earlier today)
- Also: Idaho leaders stunned by ruling, face big decisions/Betsy Russell, SR
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee said his GOP opponent was “wrong from the beginning” to join the lawsuit challenging the federal health care reform law.
A couple hours earlier, Inslee's chief Republican rival, Attorney General Rob McKenna had defended his decision to join the lawsuit and said that with the court's 5-4 ruling, at least the state and nation has greater certainty on what Congress can and can't do.
“I always believed this was constitutional,” Inslee said Thursday afternoon at a brief press conference. “I had no qualms in voting for this bill.”
The ruling means the efforts to expand and improve the nation's health care system can move forward, he said. If he wins the race for governor in November “I will lead the effort to expand coverage,” Inslee said.
Whether or not McKenna's participation in the suit influences voters, health care remains a major issue for the state for years to come, Inslee said.