(Note: This is the first of a two-part interview series with John Graham of the Pacific Research Institute and Christie Herrera of the American Legislative Exchange Council.)
A pair of health policy experts Thursday talked about state and federal health exchanges and they have a single message for Idaho lawmakers: Give the money back and wait.
John Graham, health care studies director for the Pacific Research Institute, a California-based think tank, and Christie Herrera, with the American Legislative Exchange Council, held meetings with lawmakers Thursday to urge them to hold off on any decisions about a state-based health exchange. Graham and Herrera were sponsored toBoise by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.
Graham told IdahoReporter.com he believes Gov. Butch Otter should return the $20.9 million in federal money he applied for to set up the exchange. Otter says he asked for the money only to keep lawmakers' options open relating to creating an exchange, but Graham says there's really one purpose for the funds.
“This grant has only one purpose, which is to submit to the Obamacare federal health law,” Graham said. “The immediate action is Gov. Otter needs to send back the $20 million grant he received from theUnited Statessecretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius.”
Lawmakers should hold off on exchange creation, Graham suggested, keeping the state's standing in its court case against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). "It really weakens your case," Graham told lawmakers about implementing exchanges, which are part of the PPACA.
Herrera agreed, telling lawmakers the court case is the state’s best chance to stop the PPACA from being implemented. “It’s going to harm the lawsuit,” she told lawmakers about exchange creation.
If the U.S. Supreme Court decides the PPACA is constitutional, Graham feels Idaho legislators should also wait until after the 2012 election, which could mean a change in the presidency. “We might get a president who will sign a simple repeal bill and we won’t have to worry about any of this stuff,” Graham said.
If an exchange, either state or federally based, is eventually implemented, Herrera says it will do little to improve health care and might make purchasing coverage more difficult. “All of the problems that are in the current health exchange market will end up in the exchange,” she warned.
While the initial subsidies for the program, more than $500 billion through 2020, will come from the federal government, Herrera says the state will bear the burden of paying for exchange operation and technical support. That, she believes, could lead to the state devoting loads of money to the exchange and less to Medicaid, public schools or other government program.
“Once the federal money runs out, you’ve created this bureaucracy, they’re not going to get rid of it because of politics, and so, something is going to have to give,” Herrera said. “It’s going to be tax increases or service cuts; you can’t have it all.”
Coming Friday: Graham and Herrera talk about how exchanges will affect the marketplace and why they won’t reduce health care costs. Video for the series by Mitch Coffman, IdahoReporter.com.
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.