Members of the House State Affairs Committee voted 13-3 early Tuesday morning to introduce the Idaho Health Care Freedom Act for further consideration.
The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, outlined the legislation before the committee, saying it would protect Idahoans from being forced to purchase health care for themselves or paying for health care of others.
The legislation proposed would give the state’s attorney general, Lawrence Wasden, the ability to police the matter and challenge any possible federal health care legislation in court. The impact of the legislation could be as much as $100,000 because the Wasden’s office could need an additional full time employee to handle the increased workload.
In his explanation for bringing the proposal, Clark said he is displeased with special Medicaid- funding deals received by Nebraska and Louisiana during federal health care negotiations. Clark said he wants to protect Idaho from paying the costs of other states’ health care.
The so-called “Cornhusker Kickback,” secured by Senator Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, would force the other 49 states in the union to pay Nebraska’s expanded Medicaid costs if the pending federal health care legislation passes. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan federal government agency charged with finding the impact of all legislation, estimates the Nebraska exemption could cost other states as much as $23 billion over ten years.
Louisiana also received a sweetheart deal for Medicaid funding in the new legislation. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, worked with Senate leaders to force states other than her home to state to provide an extra $300 million (the CBO claims it be $100 million) in Medicaid funding for Louisiana.
““It is time all legislators who believe in states’ rights to move from talking about it to making policy to make it happen,” said Clark, asking legislators to put their ideological beliefs to a vote.
Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, questioned Clark on the matter. “I am puzzled by the need for this,” said King. “Don’t we already have the right to choose or not to choose?”
Clark replied that nowhere in the Idaho Constitution is the right to choice for health care legislated. When asked by Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, about the justification of the possible $100,000 impact of the legislation on the general fund, Clark explained the legislation only speculated about the fiscal impact, and said the attorney general’s office might be able to handle the matter with the staff it already has.
Following discussion, the committee voted 13-3 to introduce the legislation for further deliberation, with Reps. King, Pasley-Stuart, and Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, voting against the measure.
In an interview with IdahoReporter.com, Smith called the measure premature. “”I think it’s too early for us to be acting…because the federal government has not completed their work so that we know what is going on back there.”
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, joined with Clark and Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, in co-sponsoring the legislation. Following the vote, Labrador said he voted for the measure because “We have some serious problems here in the United States where we have a Congress that is trying to tell us how we do everything in our lives.” Labrador, a candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First District, added, “We need to make sure that as a state we stand up against that and we give the Attorney General the authority to go to federal court and fight whatever federal health care legislation passes.”
The legislation will be introduced before the committee for full consideration at a date yet to be determined.