Health insurance exchange hearing inside Statehouse draws hundreds
BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- About 200 people heard competing versions of what will happen to Idaho if lawmakers adopt a state-based, privately-run insurance exchange.
A majority of those who stepped up to the microphone and in the audience argued a state-based excahnge is not right for Idaho.
"It's a federal encroachment upon our constitutional rights," Gary Leavitt said. "The federal government doesn't have the authority to tell me what I can and can't buy."
Aides for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter told the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday that Idaho residents will have more control and pay lower costs if the state designs and builds its own exchange.
Meanwhile, Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation warned that Otter's bid for Idaho to set up its own online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to buy insurance would put the state under the federal government's thumb.
No committee vote is expected until Thursday.
David Hensley, Otter's chief of staff, said the federal government has $20 million ready to help Idaho set up its own exchange. "We don't want to leave those individuals and small businesses at the mercy of the federal government," Hensely said. "Even with the restrictions of Obamacare, we know we can do a better job at this then the feds."
The exchange would cost $10 million annually to operate.