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Mirror, mirror on the wall … oh wait, maybe the governor shouldn’t look

Mirror, mirror on the wall … oh wait, maybe the governor shouldn’t look

Wayne Hoffman
December 4, 2013
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December 4, 2013

A few thoughts worth entertaining from Gov. Butch Otter’s announcement on Tuesday that Idahoans will be able to keep their insurance policies, for the time being, even if they don’t meet the minimum requirements of Obamacare. Otter’s announcement follows President Obama’s decision Nov. 14 to let people stay on the policies the government frowns upon. For a year, anyway.

Otter’s press release is curious on several levels.

First, I get that Otter was away on a foreign trade mission that perhaps slowed his own consideration of the policy. But this always sounded like a no-brainer to me, and the press release captures that: “We’re not going to tell them how to run their business,” says the press release. “Them” refers to insurance companies. OK, but if the state is not interested in telling insurance companies how to run their businesses, then why did it take so long for the Otter administration to make, what appears on the surface to be, an easy announcement? It's the right call. But why did it take so long?

Second, I completely applaud the sentiment that the state won’t “tell them how to run their business.” If only that were true. The state’s rules governing insurance are extensive. Idaho does, in fact, tell insurance companies how to run their businesses, and did long before Obama made it cool. And all our state regulations have done nothing to lower the cost of insurance. The Department of Insurance owns much of the blame, but governors and Legislatures long before the ones in power today should own their share in the responsibility. To wit:

- Minimum health insurance requirements? That’s something the state has long had.

- Making your kids stay on their parents’ policy until a certain age? Our requirements predate Obamacare, to be sure.

- Can’t buy insurance across state lines? That’s a function of a 1961 state law, not a federal one.

And if you still doubt me, then answer this: Why were Idaho insurance companies unable to offer to reinstate cancelled insurance policies until today? That’s because the state ultimately does decide how insurance companies run their businesses.

Of insurance companies, Otter says in his press release, “I’m not going to add another layer of government restrictions on the marketplace.”

Governor, if you’re looking for another layer of restrictions in the marketplace, I have a mirror I’d like to loan you.

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