The Senate Commerce Committee has approved House Bill 248, the legislation passed in the House of Representatives that would create a state insurance exchange, amid admissions that the exchange will be subject to some federal mandates.
“I am here on behalf of Gov. Otter,” noted David Hensley, the governor’s chief of staff, as he formally presented the bill before the Senate committee. “House Bill 248 entails some changes from the bill that you passed in the Senate.”
Hensley said that, among other changes, the House bill expands the number of members on the insurance exchange board from 16 to 19. “The additional three seats will be occupied by members of the Legislature, from both the majority and minority parties.”
“Much of our recent discussion about the insurance exchange has revolved around abortion,” said Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, to Hensley. “We’ve had concerns about abortifacient drugs. Would you say that Idaho has done the best that it could to limit and restrict abortion?”
“Yes,” Hensley said in response. “One of the problems is that the federal government defines the drugs Plan B and Ella as contraceptives, not abortifacients. We have no control over that.”
“I am a business person,” testified Dr. Gregory Ferch, Boise area chiropractor, during testimony. “Most of us here are in business. None of us, I imagine, would sign a purchase order with the kinds of ambiguities that the federal Obamacare law entails. Why would Idaho, as a state, put ourselves and future generations at risk with all the ambiguities?”
“I am still very concerned about the assessment of fees within your exchange plan,” said Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. “According to the language of House Bill 248, you do have the ability to set some sort of fee limits, and you should. If you don’t put some sort of number in there to fix the price, I guarantee you that it will rise. We’d also like to see some sort of limitation of which governmental agencies can share in people’s private information within the exchange. You say in the bill that the data is ‘secure,’ but you don’t say with whom that information can or cannot be shared.”
One who joined Hoffman in his concern over fees was Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise. “There are things in this bill that I like, and things that I don’t like, and things about which I have no opinion,” noted Durst. “But I especially don’t like the fact that there is no limit to the fees that will be charged to participants in the exchange. We had no opportunity to amend this bill in the Senate, we were just told that we had to vote on what the House sent us, and that’s not OK. I’d like to motion that we send this bill for amending.”
The committee rejected Durst’s motion to amend the bill.
Christine Tiddens, from Catholic Charities of Idaho, testifying in favor of the insurance exchange, noted that “our goal is to secure affordable health care for all of Idaho. We oppose the funding of abortion and abortion-enducing drugs, but we also recognize that some of the troubling portions of the federal law must be addressed at the federal level.”
Kerry Uhlenkott, of Right To Life of Idaho, told the committee that “there is no explicit protection for unborn life, via abortifacients, with this insurance exchange. According to the Idaho attorney general, we are protected from coverage of surgical abortion, but the insurance exchange will be required to provide coverage for Plan B and Ella, two drugs that are used as abortifacients. Why would we be complicit with enabling the anti-life provisions of Obamacare?”
“I have a perfect track record on life issues,” noted Cameron. “I was elected on a pro-life platform, and I know we’ve done the best that we could do to limit abortions with this exchange. This is what we must do next.”
The committee then voted 8-1 to send the bill to the full Senate for a vote, with Durst the lone “nay” vote.
“It is written right into the federal health care law that HHS ( the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) has the final say in what the insurance exchange does,” Uhlenkott told IdahoReporter.com after the committee hearing. “We now see from today’s testimony that a state exchange will not control these federal mandates. In fact, research shows that creating a state exchange opens a pandora’s box through the federal subsidies that will come from Washington, subsidies that will ultimately fund emergency contraceptives and abortifacients.”
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.