Printed on: September 29, 2013

Danger in the demonizing


This Tuesday, the door will swing open for nearly 200,000 Idahoans to get health insurance, many for the first time and many with pre-existing conditions. Good news, right? You'd never know it from Idaho's politicians and press.

Read the front page story in Thursday's paper and you might think obtaining health insurance through the Idaho exchange is like a collective root canal: unfortunate but, alas, necessary. Everyone interviewed in the story seemed duty-bound to say they were against the Affordable Care Act. But, of course, they also said they will act in their best economic interest, meaning they will likely buy insurance at an affordable cost. Reluctantly, you understand.

I don't get it: What's wrong with a family of four or more getting health insurance for a net cost of $250 a month? What's not to like about a net $100 a month to insure a single payer under 30? A minimum wage worker in Idaho (and we've got a gazillion of them) will be able to get insurance for as little as $25 a month, says the chairman of the Health Care Exchange Board, Stephen Weeg of Pocatello. Why shouldn't we celebrate this unprecedented opportunity? Because it's politically incorrect, that's why.

If you need health insurance and get it, remember not to smile.

You could offend delicate sensibilities.

Excessive celebration doesn't mean a 15-yard penalty. It means you could get ostracized. Sen. Ted Cruz and other Republicans are frantically attempting to "defund Obamacare" before too many Americans find out it's a good deal.

Is it complicated and a little hard to understand? Certainly. The Affordable Care Act was a perfect expression of our cockamamie political system at work, a dog's breakfast of every lobbyist getting something.

Is it coming at us in a rush? Surely, but then our Legislature waited until the last possible minute to act.

Will it work? A 19-member committee of Idahoans and a bunch of insurance companies has done everything possible to pull it off in a few months. There's no way it can be rolled out perfectly, but give it two years and then decide.

You might be tempted to say the drumbeat of negativity about this competitive, privately based, state-administered system (first proposed by Republicans 20 years ago) is just politics as usual and no great harm in the end. But there's a real danger the demonizing will discourage many from getting what they need or even investigating.

The saving grace may, in the end, be state-level administration. Idaho's rates may be no better than those in 26 states using a federally administered plan, but the source matters. It's reassuring and more politically palatable in Idaho. Moreover, it's consistent with our Constitution, which sees merit in different solutions in different states, a federalized health delivery system.

So, starting Tuesday, if there's a good deal in all this for you or someone you know, sign up. Just be careful who you tell.

Brady is president of the Post Co. You can write to him at jbrady@postregister.com