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Senate agrees to debate state insurance exchange

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 29, 2013 at 5:59 pm •  Published: January 29, 2013

The bill also carries an emergency clause, which means the law goes into effect immediately after the bill is signed by the governor.

"Time is of the essence in this case," said Hensley, pointing to a Jan. 1, 2014, deadline to have the marketplace up and running.

Otter's decision to promote a state-run exchange emerged from the recommendation of a task force he appointed last year to study the issue and political realities beyond the state's borders. After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health care law last summer and voters re-elected Obama in November, Hensley said it became clear Idaho had to take matters into its own hands.

The Republican governor, who once led the drive by states challenge the health care law in court, also went on the offensive Tuesday to win support for his proposal. On his website, Otter encourages citizens to sign a petition urging lawmakers to get behind a state-crafted exchange.

"It's time for Idahoans to tell their elected officials that they want Idaho to be actively engaged in the decision-making process by taking a seat at the table," Otter said in a newsletter posted on his website.

The committee has not yet set a hearing on the bill, and there is no guarantee it will have a smooth ride through the Senate or House.

Some Republicans may be tough to convince and at least one conservative group launched its own online petition drive Tuesday. The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a privately funded conservative lobbying group, argues that a state exchange simply paves the way for a federal takeover of the health care industry.

"The health insurance exchange, like the Medicaid expansion, is nothing more than a multi-billion dollar boondoggle the cost for which will be borne by future generations," according to the petition posted online. "Idaho Freedom Foundation will do everything it can, along with other opponents of Obamacare, to make sure that Idaho legislators are fully educated on the dangerous consequences of implementing this destructive law."