At Saint Alphonsus, were accustomed to difficult health care decisions. As our patients navigate an increasingly complex health care process, they rely on those close to them for information, help and counsel.
Today, Idaho faces one of the most critical health care decisions of its existence. We have a difficult decision that will determine whether Idahoans continue to get information and support from those close to home or become increasingly dependent upon the federal government. The question comes to us now in the form of health insurance exchanges. These are intended to be online marketplaces for health insurance, to allow consumers to shop for and purchase health coverage.
The issue of whether Idaho should establish its own health insurance exchange or accept one created by the federal government is exceedingly complex. The entire restructuring of the nations health insurance delivery system, mandated by new federal law, is terribly complex. In the face of these questions, Idahoans look to their elected officials to research the issue carefully and make decisions in the publics best interest.
I therefore congratulate Idaho Gov. C.L. Butch Otter for his decision to keep the door open for creation of an Idaho Health Insurance Exchange, and for asking the state Legislature to devote time and energy to this critical issue. I know this must have been a difficult decision, particularly given the governors opposition to federal health care reform. But it is a mark of true political leadership to make the tough decisions that, while they may be unpopular, are still necessary if public interest is to be truly served.
Saint Alphonsus was an early supporter of a state health insurance exchange and an active member of a supportive, statewide coalition of businesses and individuals. It should reassure the public that so many of those who are directly affected by the issue and therefore determined research its complexities prefer a state exchange.
A state exchange will help us keep the close relationships with providers of local health care and health coverage that we currently enjoy. At Saint Alphonsus, one of our core tenets is to provide health care and healing to our patients, close to home. If Idaho allows the federal government to develop a health insurance exchange for us, our citizens will be less likely to receive information and support from an entity they understand and trust.
There are many examples to point to where the state of Idaho does a better job of providing for its citizens than the federal government. There is every reason to think this would also be the case with a health insurance exchange.
I admire that Gov. Otter took time to carefully consider this question by establishing a working group to study the matter. That group spent months researching health insurance exchanges, and voted 10-2 to recommend in favor of a state-based exchange. I respect Gov. Otter for accepting the good counsel of this group.
We work very hard at Saint Alphonsus to deliver the best care and counsel that suits our patients where they live. This gives me confidence that Idaho is well suited to building a health insurance exchange that will be better than any solution that might be imposed by the federal government.
This matter now goes before the Idaho Legislature for its approval, and Im confident that theyll bring to it their collective wisdom and experience. But I am grateful to Gov. Otter for leading the way and reminding us all that we should always work to make sure that Idahos best interests are served even as we grapple with a national directive. Idaho is well served by this approach.
Sally Jeffcoat is president and CEO of Saint Alphonsus Health System.