July 11--Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Majority Leader Mike Moyle spoke out Wednesday against a state-run health-insurance marketplace for consumers and businesses under the federal Affordable Care Act.
They argued that the health-insurance exchange may be the only way an employer can be fined for not offering low- and middle-income workers health insurance.
The law, which was upheld last month by the U.S. Supreme Court, requires states to build exchanges -- or default to federal ones -- and have their plans to the federal government by the start of 2013. The exchanges have been likened to Expedia for health insurance.
But the law had a glitch in its wording. It said people whose income is up to four times the poverty line can use state-run exchanges to obtain health insurance subsidies starting in 2014. If a person qualifies, and his employer has 50 or more full-time workers, that employer will be fined. The fine is intended to help cover the cost of the worker's health insurance subsidy.
But the law doesn't provide for such fines under a federally run exchange.
A cadre of legal scholars and pundits, including two cited by Moyle and Denney, have seen that glitch as a fatal flaw in the law.
The Internal Revenue Service recently used its rulemaking powers to plug the hole by including federally run exchanges.
"I think the IRS has overstepped their bounds in making that rule, and I think we need to make our stand," Denney told the Statesman.
Moyle told the Statesman that he would "just as soon let the federal government come in and do the exchange."
He added that Idaho lawmakers shouldn't cave to pressure from Idaho health insurers, which don't want Idaho to get a federal exchange.
"Competition is a good thing," Moyle said. "Why are [Blue Cross of Idaho and Regence BlueShield of Idaho] afraid of competition?"
The law also provides federal money for Idaho to give Medicaid, the federal-state health-insurance program for low-income and disabled people, to everyone whose incomes are low enough to qualify -- not just low-income children, pregnant women and other specific categories of people that use Medicaid now. But the state would have to begin paying for a portion of the Medicaid expansion after a few years. Denney and Moyle argued that Idaho can't afford that.
"Resistance usually comes at a cost, but the state of Idaho must resist Obamacare," they said in a joint statement. "The cost of not resisting will be much higher."
Moyle and Denney told the Statesman they don't yet know how much additional money it would cost Idaho to resist the law.
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448
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