The health care providers who stand to reap enormous benefits from Obamacare’s implementation are pushing for it to be enforced to the maximum degree in states across the country. Tim Carney outlines how they’re doing this in Idaho:
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter supports a state exchange, arguing that otherwise Idaho would “be at the federal government’s mercy in how that exchange is designed and run.” But setting up a state exchange doesn’t change that.
Obamacare gives the U.S. secretary of health and human services power to impose on exchanges “such … requirements as the Secretary determines appropriate.” A forthcoming Cato Institute report on the exchanges says Obamacare “empowers the secretary to require state-funded exchanges to operate exactly as she would operate a federal exchange.”
So why would Idaho Republicans create this exchange instead of following Oklahoma’s lead? One driving cause has been the business lobby — specifically the health-care lobby.
“They lobbied greatly,” Idaho state Sen. Monty Pearce, a Republican exchange opponent, told me about the health care sector and the legislation to create the insurance exchange. “They’ve been lobbying on it for a couple of years. … They’ve hired every lobbyist they can get.”
The Idaho Hospital Association has made a state exchange a priority while also lobbying to expand Medicaid. Another leading exchange backer is the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry — one of the biggest-spending lobbying organizations in Boise. Dozens of Idaho businesses, led by insurers and health-care providers, formed the Idaho Health Exchange Alliance to back Otter’s push for an exchange.
These pro-exchange health-industry companies also poured money into legislative campaigns. Comb through the campaign finance disclosures of most Idaho state senators and you’ll see gifts from drugmakers (GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer), insurers (Blue Cross of Idaho and PacificSource Health Plans) and industry groups (Idaho Hospital Association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the Idaho Health Care Association). All these companies benefit from a state-run exchange.
The industry stands to gain, but the people will pay the price in the long run for Otter’s flip-flop on the issue.