BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The 2011 Legislature rejected nullification as a means of halting President Barack Obama's health insurance overhaul, but the 18th-century state's rights doctrine continued to echo through the halls of the Idaho Capitol on Tuesday among foes of establishing an insurance exchange.
About 200 people attended the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee's first hearing on Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's proposal to create a state-based, privately-run online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to buy insurance. Such exchanges are mandated by President Obama's 2009 law.
Otter's bill calls for creating a 16-member, governor-appointed board to oversee the marketplace, including consumer advocates, insurance officials, small business representatives and health care providers. Idaho's exchange itself would be run as a nonprofit organization outside government.
Even though Idaho would get a federally run exchange if it refuses to craft one of its own, opponents of the Affordable Care Act insisted at Tuesday's hearing that the state should simply refuse to do either, on grounds that it's the best way to tell Washington, D.C., to stop meddling in Idaho's affairs.
"I'm against any form of health insurance exchange," Eric Pederson, a Boise resident, told the panel. "We have God-given rights, and the better strategy is just to stand up and say 'No.' We need to stand up for our liberty, this is a gross violation of our liberty, and if we don't stand up, we'll lose it."
Two years ago, the Idaho House passed a bill to nullify Obama's overhaul, though the Senate rejected that measure as unconstitutional.
On Tuesday, David Hensley, Otter's chief of staff, said the governor doesn't like Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act any more than he did when he pushed Idaho to sue the federal government over the law in 2010.
Even so, Hensley insists that a home-grown exchange will be less expensive for consumers than an exchange run by the federal government — and help ensure that regulation remains in Idaho, not thousands of miles away in the nation's capital.