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Health insurance exchanges are online marketplaces intended to make health insurance options clearer and more competitive. The reasoning is that individuals and small businesses can make better purchasing decisions if they have access to information necessary to compare health plans, resulting in a more transparent and competitive health insurance marketplace. A health insurance exchange lays out health insurance options for easy comparisons, explaining plans in terms of benefits and costs.
State based exchanges also have the potential to help states improve access to health coverage, foster competition among health insurers, and increase consumer choice. Besides marketing insurance coverage, exchanges will establish health plan standards and provide tools for consumers to assess public program eligibility, and easily enroll in the appropriate coverage.
Under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states must either create their own state-run health care exchange, participate in a partnership model or default to a federally run and controlled exchange.
Gov. Otter has made it plain that while he remains opposed to the federal health care reform act, the fact is that for now and for the foreseeable future it is the law. There will be a health insurance exchange in Idaho, and the only question is who will build and run it. The matter is now before the Idaho Legislature.
As stakeholders in this critical issue, we feel strongly that Idaho should have its own exchange, rather than one imposed by the federal government, for these reasons:
- A product tailored to our needs. Idaho will be far better served by an exchange designed by and for Idahoans, as opposed to a “one-size fits all” version imposed by the federal government.
- Local control. Idaho should keep control over its own future. We should not allow the federal government to take over such an important aspect of our lives.
- Preserving our State Rights. By establishing a state-based exchange, we would preserve, protect and defend Idaho’s legislative sovereignty. A state-based exchange model would also demonstrate Idaho's continued commitment to small government and fiscally prudent principles, minimizing any bureaucratic influence and cost.
- Quality assurance and regulatory control. Under a federal exchange Idaho would lose the ability to oversee the quality of the participating insurance providers. Quality assurances and citizen complaints would be handled in Washington D.C. by the Department of Health and Human Services, rather than locally by the Idaho Department of Insurance. Similarly, under a federal model regulatory control and would be managed by people in Washington D.C., rather than locally here in Idaho.
- Accountability. A state exchange will be accountable to Idaho businesses, local healthcare providers, local insurance providers, individuals and other stakeholders. A federal exchange would be created by Washington bureaucrats who know or care little about the needs of Idahoans and are not directly accountable to Idaho stakeholders.
- Cost. Idaho presently has some of the lowest health insurance costs in the nation. That may not continue if the federal government is allowed to make choices for us.
- Jobs. The health insurance industry provides thousands of good jobs to Idahoans, jobs that may be at risk. Do we want place their fate in the hands of federal bureaucrats?
Opposition to health care exchanges has largely been philosophical or political. While we reserve the right to address those objections later, we feel strongly that when viewed from a purely rational and practical perspective, there is no question that if Idaho must have an exchange, it would be far better served by creating its own, with input from its own citizens and with their welfare foremost in mind.
For that reason, we strongly support an IDAHO Health Insurance Exchange.