In a contentious hearing Thursday morning in the House State Affairs Committee, the Idaho Health Freedom Act (IFHA), sponsored by Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden, and co-sponsored by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, and Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, passed the committee on a 13-5 party line vote.
During his testimony before the committee, Clark said bill would enable Idahoans to choose their own medical services and insurance and free Idahoans from excessive regulation by the federal government. The bill would also give the state more standing in court, should the time come that the state needs to sue, said Clark.
The potential fiscal impact of the bill is $100,000, but that amount might not be necessary. Clark, in previous hearings on the matter, said the projection was added only as a precautionary measure. The money would only be needed should the attorney general’s office need to hire additional staff to handle any litigation, but the money is guaranteed to be appropriated.
Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, expressed concern about the possible addition to the state’s budget in a year of budget cuts. Higgins said that as the Legislature considers reductions to education funding and other essential programs, it would be irresponsible to add any amount to the state budget. Higgins also expressed concern about cost becoming an annually recurring one should a lawsuit against the federal government drag on for an extended period of time.
Clark responded saying “our rights are worth more than $100,000 per year.”
Higgins wasn’t the only Democrat on the panel to voice criticism over the measure. Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, said health reform is needed in this country and that Idaho should work with the federal government to develop acceptable reforms.
“Idaho, last time I looked, is part of this nation,” said King emphatically. “This needs to be a nationwide solution.” King said that the people and companies of the nation are hurting from the lack of health insurance reform and something must be done remedy the situation.
Jonathan Parker, executive director for the Idaho Republican Party, testified before the committee, stating that the Idaho GOP central committee had already passed a resolution supporting the concept behind the IHFA legislation. Parker said he was not in attendance to advocate for or against the bill, but simply to inform the committee on the actions of the state GOP. He added that he had been invited by Clark to testify before the panel.
Reps. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, Mary Lou Sheperd, D-Wallace, Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, King, and Higgins all voted against the measure.
Following the vote, Pasley-Stuart expressed her dissatisfaction with the handling of the legislative process on the bill.
“I am disappointed in the political nature of the discussion,” said Pasley-Stuart. “I am deeply sorry this became so politicized.” She took particular exception with the presence of Parker, saying that while he is a fine gentleman, she didn’t much appreciate his presence in the hearing room.