Many of us fought against the Affordable Care Act, which even the president has dubbed "Obamacare." We challenged its constitutionality in the U.S. Supreme Court, and we worked hard to elect a new president and Congress that would repeal the law, but failed.
We will continue to resist the federal government's usurpation of individual and states' rights, but we must do so under the rule of law established by our Constitution.
Since Congress passed Obamacare, I have spent a great deal of time studying the law. One of the most controversial provisions facing every state is the decision to establish a state-run health insurance exchange or abdicate that right to the federal government.
An exchange is an online competitive health insurance marketplace to help individuals and businesses compare health insurance coverage. Obamacare allows each state to develop its own exchange within certain guidelines and provides federal funding to do so. If, however, a state fails to create its own exchange, the law requires the federal government to impose an exchange controlled by Washington bureaucrats.
Some groups and individuals claim Idaho should refuse to establish a health insurance exchange, thinking that if enough states resist, Congress and the president will give up. The hope that a few red states dragging their feet will force the demise of a law that has become the flagship accomplishment of President Obama and his allies is misguided.
Idaho's failure to establish its own exchange will thrust us into the hands of those who seek complete federal control over our health care system. That is why every major business organization in Idaho, including our own Chamber of Commerce, along with most hospitals, health care providers and insurers support a state-run health insurance exchange. We must be at the table as federal regulations are developed. Idaho's health insurance rates are among the lowest in the country and a federally controlled exchange would result in higher costs to Idahoans. A state exchange preserves our options. We will make multiple changes as we go along, and if we decide against running our own exchange at any time in the future, we can still opt out without penalty.
Our choice is not between a state exchange and no exchange at all; it is between state involvement and total federal control. The bill before the Idaho Legislature authorizing our own state exchange is clear that "through this legislation, the state of Idaho asserts its sovereignty by refusing to surrender decision-making authority over health care issues, which are matters appropriately left to states and individual citizens. The creation of a state-based health insurance exchange will provide an Idaho-specific solution that fits the unique needs of the state of Idaho."
Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, is pro tem of the Idaho Senate.