Health and Welfare chair McGeachin may go it alone to stop health exchange (video)

Health and Welfare chair McGeachin may go it alone to stop health exchange (video)

by
Dustin Hurst
January 12, 2012
Dustin Hurst
Author Image
January 12, 2012

(Note: This is the first installment of a two-part interview with Rep. Janice McGeachin,R-Idaho Falls, chairperson of the House Health and Welfare Committee.)

Who says one person can’t make a difference?

The coming fight over the creation of a state-based health insurance exchange might come down to just one person.

Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, the chair of the House Health and Welfare Committee is that individual.

In an exclusive interview with IdahoReporter.com Wednesday, McGeachin said she may use a perk given to committee chairs to stop a bad health exchange bill. McGeachin says that if a health exchange bill hits her desk that cedes some of the state’s sovereignty to the federal government, she will stop it by herself.

McGeachin, who spent a myriad of days and hours studying the exchange issue since the end of the 2011 legislative session, believes there’s not much difference between a state-based exchange and a federally-run program. She also warned that if lawmakers don’t give enough control to the state, she will end the legislation.

“Yeah, that’s my job,” McGeachin said. “That’s my duty as a state legislator, to protect the sovereignty of our state.”

The mandates handed down by the federal government in exchange creation rules, the chairwoman said, essentially tie the hands of the state and lawmakers. “If we sign on to the plan, we cede all of our authority to Health and Human Services (a federal agency),” she warned. “Why would we do that?”

There is no guarantee, however, that the bill will be sent to her committee. House leadership could, instead, send it to a number of different panels, including business or commerce.

The Idaho Falls Republican was the lone legislator to vote against an initial outline of the health exchange plan in the Health Care Task Force. The vote held no force of law, but recommended the draft legislation be sent to the Legislature for consideration.

McGeachin says she shares concerns with members of the business community about the composition of the exchange oversight board created in the initial draft. She is also worried that the exchange might alter the insurance marketplace in an unnatural manner.

“Whatever we do inIdaho, we need to do what’s going to be good for the consumer and not necessarily for a specific industry,” McGeachin explained.

McGeachin and her committee begin discussions about the 2010 federal health reforms and the exchange program Thursday. It’s unknown when lawmakers might begin discussion of the exchange legislation or if it will start in the House or Senate.

Coming Friday: Rep. McGeachin expresses her concerns about the subsidies within the exchange and a diminished role for insurance agents if the plan is implemented. Video for the interview by Mitch Coffman, IdahoReporter.com.

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