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Eye On Boise

House panel approves Idaho Health Care Plan on 7-5 vote, sends to full House

The House Health & Welfare Committee has voted 7-5 in favor of HB 464, the Idaho Health Care Plan, sending it to the full House with a recommendation that it “do pass.” You can read my full story here at

“There was a lot of great testimony today,” said Rep. Jarom Wagoner, R-Caldwell. “Somebody said it’s an opportunity to lead the nation, which is the Idaho way … and I appreciate looking outside that box. It’s not a perfect fix, but it is a step in the right direction.”

Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, made the motion to approve the bill; Rep. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, made a substitution motion to delay a decision. “This is such a complex issue, I’d like to see us delay this vote,” he said. Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, said he supported Kingsley’s motion, saying there are “legitimate questions we need to have answered.”

Today was the committee’s second lengthy hearing on the bill; the first was an informational hearing designed solely for the panel’s members to get their questions about the plan answered.

Packer said, “I appreciate that this is a complex issue and that many of us have had a lot of questions, however we’ve had months to delve into these questions. … I know that that’s true, because I’ve been part of the process. … I’m trying to get us to a point where we’re actually going to move forward on something, since we’ve had time to do our own diligence and get answers to these questions.”

Kingsley’s motion failed on a 5-7 vote. Those supporting it were Reps. VanderWoude, Blanksma, Hanks, Kingsley and Zollinger; those opposing it were Reps. Wood, Packer, Perry, Redman, Wagoner, Chew and Rubel.

Rep. John VanderWoude, R-Nampa, said he appreciated the answers to his questions and changes to the proposal that state officials have made. “I would still like a better explanation of why we are not submitting a waiver on the governor’s plan,” he said, referring to the governor’s executive order to allow the sale of lower-cost insurance plans that aren’t compliant with all Obamacare rules. VanderWoude said he wants to know why that’s “not part of this solution.” He also said he would prefer to see something offering just primary care, not insurance.

Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, the committee chairman, said, “If I thought that anybody would change their mind, quite frankly I would support the substitute motion.” Delaying, he said, would be “kicking the can down the road.”

He picked up on comments from Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, who said, “You know, I’ve been here four years, and I’m not saying we’re kicking the can down, we’re kicking the barrel down, and the barrel is full of those 100 percent below poverty.” He said, “Everything I hear – it is an Idaho plan. Moving those with the high-risk pool type diseases into Medicaid, that means they have no deductible, no co-pay, no coinsurance, if they’re not already bankrupt because of the diseases, they have an opportunity not to go bankrupt. That’s why we had the high-risk pool.”

Redman said, “I look at this Mediciad of the 2,500 to 3,500 individuals. I look at that as the federal government’s responsibility into Medicaid. And you know, if we didn’t have 62 percent of our lands under the federal control, maybe we could have the income coming in and the taxes and the like where we could afford more Idaho plans. But we don’t. Massachusetts is first in medical doctors per population, we’re 49th. Massachusetts doesn’t have those 62 percent of lands covered under federal government. So I think this is the best plan we’ve come up with, and I will support the original motion.”

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said she had concerns about the inclusion of work requirements. But, she said, “I can only vote on the bill that’s in front of me, and I think the bill that’s in front of me is a very substantial improvement on the status quo. … It will save lives. … We either do something or we do nothing, and this is a whole lot better than doing nothing.”

Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, called the proposal a “private-sector solution” for “35,000 Idahoans that have been in the gap.”

Zollinger said he went without health coverage for 10 years early in his marriage, and his first child was born with help from Medicaid; he acknowledged problems in health care. But, he said, “All government has done for the last 60 years is screw that up and made it worse and worse, and we’re fooling ourselves if we think another government solution is going to fix the problem. We have to get out of the way.”

Here’s the final vote in favor of the bill:

Voting yes: Reps. Wood, Packer, Perry, Redman, Wagoner, Chew and Rubel

Voting no: Reps. VanderWoude, Blanksma, Hanks, Kinglsey and Zollinger

Wood said, “I want to thank everybody who came today, and I want to thank everybody in the state of Idaho that happens to be listening or watching. We appreciate it very much. You’re seeing your government at work, and today we’re earning our money. It may not be much, but whatever it is, we’re certainly earning it. I appreciate everybody’s respect, I appreciate everybody’s paying attention. These are tough issues. The committee has struggled with this. I can tell you that every member of this committee, no matter how they’re going to vote today, understands the gravity of exactly what we’re deciding here today.”

He noted that the recent Boise State University Public Policy Survey showed 75 percent of Idahoans want lawmakers to act on this issue, and said, “Kicking the can down the road is no longer a viable option.”

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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