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Refusing an insurance exchange is a win-win for Idaho

Refusing an insurance exchange is a win-win for Idaho

Wayne Hoffman
November 15, 2011
Wayne Hoffman
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November 15, 2011
Every day, more states are wisely refusing to lend resources to the very law the federal government is using to strip states of their sovereignty.

By Wayne Hoffman and Michael Cannon
“They’ve got us between a rock and a hard place,” Gov. Butch Otter told us as he wrestled with the most important health care question facing Idaho. 


Which is: should state officials create a new government bureaucracy—a so-called health insurance “exchange”—that will impose ObamaCare on Idahoans?  Or should state officials refuse, and run the risk that the federal government might do it instead?


On the one hand, if Idaho creates an Exchange, that act could entrench an illegitimate, unconstitutional, and increasingly vulnerable law. It could even undermine the lawsuit Idaho joined to block the law—which the U.S. Supreme Court has just agreed to adjudicate.


But a federal Exchange would be worse, wouldn’t it? And Washington is expected to approve a $30 million grant to entice Idaho to do the federal government’s dirty work.


ObamaCare certainly puts Idahoans in a tough spot. It is increasing insurance premiums by up to 30 percent, with larger increases to come.  It is denying health insurance to children, and throwing sick people out of their health insurance.  It will eliminate an estimated 800,000 jobs, and its unelected rationing board will deny care to the elderly.


On the question of whether to create an Exchange, however, Idaho is definitely not between a rock and a hard place. Quite the contrary: if state officials play their cards right, they can turn the tables and put the federal government between a rock and a hard place. 


How?  State officials should refuse to create an Exchange, send that $30 million back to Washington, and dare the federal government to bring ObamaCare to Idaho.


Other states have already called Washington’s bluff.  Governors Rick Scott (R-FL) and Bobby Jindal (R-LA)—who, not coincidentally, probably know more about health care than the other 48 governors combined—were the first to send the money back and tell the federal government to get lost.


New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) vetoed an Exchange bill. Legislators in South Carolina, Georgia, New Hampshire, New York, and other states also scuttled Exchange legislation. Just last week, North Dakota lawmakers said no. Oklahoma and Kansas returned $86 million in ObamaCare grants.


Every day, more states are wisely refusing to lend resources to the very law the federal government is using to strip states of their sovereignty. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) originally planned to implement an Exchange, but the Obama administration’s onerous rules convinced him to send back a $32 million ObamaCare grant.


Indeed, resisting ObamaCare is the only way states will get their sovereignty back. As more states refuse to implement the law, it becomes less likely that the administration will implement it, and more likely that Congress will repeal it.


It’s not clear that the federal government could even impose an Exchange on Idaho at all, much less by the 2014 deadline. For one, it doesn’t have the money. ObamaCare’s authors forgot to provide any funding for federal Exchanges. 


For another, ObamaCare’s framers also failed to authorize much of the deficit spending needed to keep federal Exchanges from collapsing. Refusing to create an Exchange is thus a win-win for Idaho: the federal deficit shrinks and ObamaCare implodes.


Be not afraid, Gov. Otter.  The federal government is not in control.  Idaho is.  Provided she makes the right choice.


Wayne Hoffman is executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation (www.idahofreedom.net). Michael F. Cannon is director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute (www.cato.org).

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