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Eye On Boise

Deal: Idaho health exchange would work even if fed law overturned

Panel on health insurance exchange includes, from left, Alex LaBeau, Bill Deal and Rep. Vito Barbieri (Betsy Russell)
Panel on health insurance exchange includes, from left, Alex LaBeau, Bill Deal and Rep. Vito Barbieri (Betsy Russell)

Idaho state Insurance Director Bill Deal says even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules the federal health care reform legislation unconstitutional, the state health insurance exchange that Idaho has in the works still could serve Idaho citizens and help them shop for the most affordable and appropriate health insurance. "It does not go to waste, because we can move that same platform and provide truly Idaho exchange," Deal said. He's the lead-off speaker on a three-person panel at the AP Legislative Preview about the proposed health insurance exchange, a hot issue in the upcoming legislative session. Also on the panel: Alex LaBeau, head of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, and Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, sponsor of last year's health care nullification legislation.

Deal said, as Gov. Butch Otter noted earlier today, "We're kind of held hostage here," in that if the state doesn't meet federal requirements, it could lose its favorable 70-30 federal match rate for Medicaid funding. If that were to drop to 50-50, Idaho would lose $300 million it now relies on for health care for its low-income and disabled citizens. He said legislation to establish the exchange has been drafted and will be presented to the Legislature's joint Health Care Task Force tomorrow.

Barbieri said he opposes accepting federal grant funds to set up an exchange. "I'm very concerned about the damage that this mandate does to constitutional provisions," he said. "Idaho can't afford this mandate," which he referred to as a "monster" with unknown costs. "We should be awaiting the Supreme Court decision," he said. "The state simply cannot pay every citizen's health care."

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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