Printed on: March 04, 2013

Times-News: No third option on health exchange

There's a movement afoot in Idaho - even among legislators who should know better - to protest the federally mandated health exchange.

These people aren't happy that a health exchange has been mandated and they don't want Idaho to participate. Somehow, they have convinced themselves that is an option.

It's not.

There are two options: Set up a state-run exchange or let the federal government do it for you. Period.

Late last year, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said he believed a state-run health insurance exchange was the best option for Idaho. He had the power to pass the exchange through an executive order. Instead, he left it up to the Legislature to decide.

We're not sure why he made that decision, but we hope that he doesn't ultimately regret extending that bit of political good will.

Idaho has long been betting that Obama's health care overhaul wouldn't make it this far. We were among the states who sued to overturn it. Idaho voters threw their support - all four of our Electoral College votes - behind Romney, who promised he would undo Obamacare.

But the state's suit was unsuccessful and Obama won another term.

The time for protest is behind us and it's time to stop pretending another tantrum will change the course of history.

Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said it best on Thursday during the six-hour health exchange debate on the Senate floor. Cameron openly opposes Obama's health care overhaul, but he reminded fellow lawmakers that this is Obama's signature. It is Obama's legacy.

If Idaho thinks it can ignore a mandate and go unnoticed, he said, that's not going to happen.

Instead, the federal government will put itself in charge of our health insurance exchange and we will lose our voice.

"You cannot weaken the federal government by defaulting to them," said Cameron, an insurance agent. "You do not weaken the federal government by abandoning the field of battle."

All five of the Magic Valley's senators voted Thursday in favor of the bill setting up a state exchange. The bill now goes before the House.

Despite his announcement that Idaho should set up a state exchange, Otter has openly criticized Obamacare.

But in a statement last December Otter said, "There will be a health insurance exchange in Idaho. Our options have come down to this: Do nothing and be at the federal government's mercy ... or take a seat at the table and play the cards we've been dealt."

He's right.

Idaho found itself in a similar situation more than a decade ago when the federal government announced its plans to reintroduce wolves to the West. We had two options: create a state plan for wolf management or let the federal government do it for us.

We chose the third option, which was to protest.

Then, as now, that third option did not exist.

The federal government reintroduced wolves despite state lawmakers' protests and we did not have a voice in how it was done.

Don't make the same mistake twice, Idaho.