GOP leaders say Otter’s exchange choice at Idaho lawmakers’ mercy

Idaho Republican legislative leaders say Gov. Butch Otter’s decision next week on what kind of insurance exchange the state should adopt remains at the mercy of lawmakers who return to Boise in January for the 2013 session.

Otter has until Dec. 14 to tell the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if Idaho plans to use federal financial help to create its own online marketplace for insurance products for individuals and small businesses, or let the federal government install an exchange of its own.

The exchanges are a part of President Barack Obama’s health insurance overhaul.

New House Speaker Scott Bedke says Otter’s decision will be the subject of debate – and potential rejection – by his representatives.  Bedke and Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill meet with Otter Friday to discuss the exchange dilemma.

Ahead of the meeting, Hill suggested the Republican governor should do nothing that limits legislators’ room to maneuver.  That would likely mean following the October recommendation from a governor-appointed panel advising Otter to adopt a state-based, nonprofit exchange run by a private board.

Idaho insurers and business groups are pushing for a state exchange.  Providers like Blue Shield of Idaho and Regence BlueShield of Idaho contend a federal exchange’s policies would be costlier for customers than those from a state exchange tailored to meet Idaho residents’ needs. (AP)

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