‘None of the above’

February 17, 2013

I have a confession from my school days and admit I was one of the guilty ones. As the teacher passed out the test I often hoped it would contain more multiple-choice than essay type questions. A typical four choice option gives the test taker an immediate 25% chance at a correct answer. I particularly enjoyed when option d. said “all of the above” or “none of the above”. Better than a 50/50 life line wouldn’t you say?

If only things were that way on some of the legislation we consider every year. Take the much heated discussion over health exchanges. The good news is that it is somewhat of a multiple choice question. The disagreement is over just how many choices are available to state lawmakers. The question seems simple enough. What kind of health exchange is best for Idaho? Let’s review our choices:

a. An exchange that is a Federal-State partnership.

b. A state based exchange

c. A federal exchange

That is the list of options that Governor Otter and the 105 members of the Idaho Legislature have to choose from. Many who have emailed, called, or talked to me in person contend we have that much appreciated option d. “none of the above”. Believe me there have been times when I have wanted to see that option more than a four point buck on my first deer hunt.

The truth is that as a state we have tried to keep the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at bay. Resolutions, legislation, an Idaho led lawsuit, and other efforts have been employed in hopes neutralizing or elimination this troubling mandate. We are all well aware that this fight found its way to the highest court, their subsequent decision, and retention of the Oval Office by the laws namesake.

That doesn’t mean that Idaho should cease and desist with concerns over ACA, but sometimes we must deal with the cards dealt to us and not fold in frustration. Last Thursday in the Senate Commerce committee I voted for a state based exchange. I believe this best protects Idaho’s position given the options we currently have. I am not willing to throw the states cards on the table and let the feds take all the chips just yet.

Testimony during the committee hearing in opposition to a state exchange centered on the idea of doing nothing. But by doing nothing we will have a federal exchange. In this case inaction has some pretty significant consequences. I understand the concerns about any exchange, but I am just not inclined to yield all control to the federal government. Our track record with them has been less than favorable.

Those who believe we should do nothing have not been bashful in sharing their opinion. Just since Thursday’s vote strongly worded emails critical of Governor Otter and pro SB 1042 committee members are making the circuit. I don’t have a problem with difference of opinion and at least the threats are political, not personal. Welcome to politics, right?

Perhaps I would be more inclined to play chicken with the federal government if there was other legally founded legislation to consider. Just ask my family and close friends. I have a rebel streak in me and have gone contrary to “the system” on many an occasion. However, I am not willing to make that bluff on behalf of citizens I represent. I continue to have more faith in Idaho than I do in Washington D.C.

In summary, I respect the opinions of those who think differently than me on this issue. The reality is that there is no crystal ball to tell us which exchange model will work best for Idaho in the long term. All we can do is make the best decision possible, based on the information we have. Yes it is a multiple choice question but there are no easy answers. Come to think of it, maybe essay questions aren’t so tough after all.

Idaho State Journal 2/17/2013