Following an expected Senate vote Thursday in support of a state insurance exchange, one senator requested a personal privilege comment. Fittingly enough, observed Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, the Idaho Senate approved Gov. Butch Otter’s proposal for a state insurance exchange on the anniversary date of the U.S. House of Representatives passing Obamacare. The date was March 21, 2010. Two days later it was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
Thus began a three-year odyssey in Idaho on how to handle the Affordable Care Act. The Idaho House and the Senate have now approved a state insurance exchange as recommended by Otter. He is expected to sign the legislation thus making Idaho the first state in the nation with a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature approving such a plan.
House Bill 248, which passed in the Idaho House by a margin of 41-29 on March 13, was approved by a vote of 23 to 12 in the Senate after nearly four hours of debate.
Following the vote, Otter issued a press release thanking the Legislature for its support in passing exchange legislation. “I appreciate the Legislature’s support enabling me to do what I believe is right for our citizens. Of course we share strong objections to Obamacare, but as responsible elected officials we also are committed to constructively working together for the best possible outcomes for Idaho. I’m grateful for that collaboration.”
“I won’t restate all the reasons why I think this is our best option,” Sen. John Tippets, R-Montpelier, said as he presented the bill. Noting that the operation of a state insurance exchange is anticipated to be “less costly,” Tippets told a story of a telephone call he received from a constituent.
“I appreciated the lady’s polite tone as she explained her opposition to the bill. She then asked me if I had read the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and I told her no. She was upset, and asked how I could vote without reading the entire bill. I explained that we are not voting on the Affordable Care Act, we’re voting on House Bill 248, which I read again in its entirety today. I wish I could vote no on the Affordable Care Act, but that is not what we’re doing here today.”
“Let’s be honest. This is the full and voluntary implementation of Obamacare,” Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, said in opposition to the bill. “The drive for an insurance exchange has taken on an intoxicating attraction like I’ve never seen before. Things that were once regarded as sacred in this body have now been rationalized to insignificance. Most stunning is the religious liberty issue that has been rationalized away.”
On Feb. 21, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1042, which provided the legislative basis for a state insurance exchange, by a vote of 23 to 12. The bill was then amended slightly before being introduced in to the Idaho House Bill 248.
The Senate vote tally on House Bill 248:
Yes: Bair, Bock, Brackett, Buckner-Webb, Cameron, Davis, Goedde, Guthrie, Hagedorn, Heider, Hill, Keough, Lacey, Lakey, Lodge, Martin, Patrick, Rice, Schmidt, Siddoway, Stennett, Tippets, Werk.
No: Bayer, Durst, Fulcher, Johnson, McKenzie, Mortimer, Nonini, Nuxoll, Pearce, Thayn, Vick, Winder.