Gov. Butch Otter said Wednesday that he is seeking input from members of the Legislature in deciding how Idaho should respond to federal health insurance exchange mandates.
“Anybody who knows me, and who knows Idaho, knows that this is not a decision for me to make on my own,” he told a lunch audience gathered at the Boise Centre for the annual gathering of the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho.
At issue for Idaho is how to respond to federal mandates in the Obamacare law that require a health insurance exchange to be created in each state. The individual states are required to establish an exchange on its own, leave it to the federal government to set it up, or pursue a “hybrid” approach where state and federal agencies collaborate to create one.
States are required to report to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by Dec. 14 as to which approach they are going to pursue.
“It seems like every day we’re getting new information from Sebelius (referring to U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius) about what they expect from us,” Otter noted. “New rules, new guidelines. Just when we think we know what we need to do, the uncertainty of it all shatters what we think should happen.”
He added that “(former Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi was right when she said ‘we need to pass this bill so we can find out what’s in it.’ They didn’t know what was in it then, and I wish Washington would get to reading it now because they’re still figuring it out.”
Otter acknowledged that several other states have chosen to not create a state exchange, and to not proactively comply with the federal requirement one way or the other. He also said that several governors of other states remain “philosophically opposed to what is the law, and what is the law of the land.”
Yet Otter warned that “we are a republic,” adding, “we did all that we could do” to oppose the federal health care law. He said the decision concerning an insurance exchange is a difficult one and the outcome will be displeasing to some.
During a brief question and answer session at the end of his address, Otter responded to a question from IdahoReporter.com about receiving input from the Legislature on the insurance exchange issue.
Otter said that he has called a meeting with legislators at his office this Friday morning to consider how to proceed. “I’ve sought input from the Legislature every step of the way as we have dealt with federal health care mandates, and that is not about to stop,” he stated.
Later Wednesday afternoon, Otter spokesperson Jon Hanian clarified for IdahoReporter.com that the governor’s meeting Friday will be specifically with the legislative leaders of both parties from the House and the Senate.