Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Health Insurance Exchanges Out, Says Otter

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Governor C.L. Butch Otter believes Idaho is out of time for a state-based health insurance exchange.
  • Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter believes Idaho is out of time for a state-based health-insurance exchange.

The Legislature has set the projected tax revenues for 2013 a full $33 million less than Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's forecast of $2.7 billion. While the discrepancy isn't uncommon, Otter in his annual State of the State address called for directing all sorts of general fund monies into areas like the rainy day higher education account, bonuses for state employees and more.

"We can still fund all my priorities," Otter told the Idaho Press Club this morning. "My priorities are still possible. If we have a second run at this recession, we'll have the money just like we did in '08, '09 and '10. I think it's important not only to me, I think it's important to the state."

Otter also took the opportunity to express his dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama's Jan. 24 State of the Union speech. Otter went on to talk water management and the feasibility of beefing up Idaho's dams to provide more water.

"It's estimated by the engineers that if we added 6 to 8 feet on top of every dam, we could double our water capacity," said Otter. "When I was in Congress, our gaze immediately went back to Weiser and the Galloway Dam. That's the only one with really feasible plans."

As for the redistricting panel's continued controversy, Otter was mute on the subject.

"Separate but equal," said Otter. "That is the legislative domain and I'm not goin' there."

And on the forthcoming health-insurance exchanges—mandated by the federal government, for which the state has accepted roughly $23 million to set up, or the Feds will do it themselves—Otter suggested that time had run out.

"I don't know that we have time to put together a state exchange," said Otter. "Just consider the environment that we're in. Idaho was the first, we've now been joined by 23 other states in a lawsuit on state's rights and the individual mandate."

Otter estimates that the exchange would take a year to set up. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a claim on the issue, and has suggested it could issue an opinion on the matter as early as July of this year. Otter said that with the Supreme Court's decision falling right before a November election for U.S. senators, this issue of state exchanges could become a litmus test for the election.

"I think we're at a point now where we've waited long enough. I've written a letter requesting a waiver for the 2013 date. Chances are pretty good that we're not gonna have a state-based exchange given the timeline itself. I think I've made my thoughts pretty well-known on the subject. I don't like the Affordable Health Care Act."

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