Idaho Lawmakers Weigh In On Supreme Court's Health Care Ruling

Jun 28, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the majority of President Barack Obama's health care law.  

The high court issued its ruling in Washington this morning.  You can read the ruling here.

Now, Idaho lawmakers and policy makers are weighing in. 

Here's what some of them are saying:

Update at 2:30 pm MST

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter just released this statement:

“Although five Supreme Court justices upheld Obamacare and the individual mandate under Congress’s power to tax, it does not mean it’s the right thing to do.  Obamacare has been bad for America from the beginning.  This is a sad day for self-determination and for individual liberty.  Change is now in the hands of the American people and we must elect a new president and congressional candidates who will repeal Obamacare and protect our freedom to remain the architects of our own destiny.”  - Gov. Otter 

Update at 1:55 pm MST

Idaho's Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was one of the first state attorneys general to enter Idaho in the federal lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.  Idaho was one of 26 states that joined the case.

Still, Wasden says today's decision is a "significant win for states on the state sovereignty issue."  Wasden is talking about the piece of the ruling that allows states to decide whether to expand Medicaid programs.  Until today's ruling, the law required states to expand Medicaid coverage, and if they didn't states could lose all federal Medicaid funds.   

"One of the other issues is what does the state of Idaho legislature do.  They’ve got some choices to make.  One of those choices is what do we do with the Medicaid program. Do we expand it? Do we leave it the same? Those are all policy choices for the legislature to make. That’s beyond the power and authority of this office." - Attorney General Wasden

Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) agrees with Wasden in that today's decision is a win for states' rights, but Risch says it's a loss for personal freedom.  Risch, along with Idaho's entire congressional delegation, wants to see the Affordable Care Act repealed. 

"There’s going to be lots of parts of this bill revisited.  If I were the Governor or if I were in the legislature my question to the federal government is, 'Where are we going with this?' Because particularly now that the federal government is not getting the coverage it was expecting, what is it going to try do?" - Sen. Risch

Update at 12:48 pm MST

House Minority Leader John Rusche (D-Lewiston), a retired physician, says the Affordable Care Act provides tools for addressing basic problems in U.S. health care.  That, he says, is a good thing.

"Am I delighted?  Well, I feel a lot better having some tools than not having any.  But the fact is we have a heck of a lot of work to do to make health care what Americans deserve." - Rep. Rusche

Rusche says state lawmakers now face important questions, like whether to try to pursue a state-run health insurance exchange, and whether to opt into the Medicaid expansion that is a significant component of the Affordable Care Act.

Update at 12:11 pm MST

Freshman Congressman Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) is joining with the Republican leaders in calling for full repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

"The underlying philosophy of Obamacare was always about more than just health care.  The fundamental grievance that I have with this law, and in particular the individual mandate component, is that no government should ever be powerful enough to compel its citizens to purchase a product or a service under penalty of law.  What is there now to prevent the federal government, or one of its agencies, from taxing us to compel the purchase of life insurance, a cell phone or any other product Washington deems is necessary for us all?" - Rep. Raul Labrador

Update at 10:58 MST

Idaho's Insurance Department director Bill Deal tells the Spokesman Review state lawmakers are "basically at square one" when it comes to setting up a health insurance exchange.  The legislature didn't move forward on planning for the exchange, as it awaited the Supreme Court's decision on the health care law. 

Idaho had a $20 million grant to begin planning its exchange, but lawmakers rejected it. “That money's essentially off the table,” Deal said. “So there are other grants that are available, but we're going to have to really sit down and determine if we go for grants, if the Department of Insurance and Health & Welfare will get spending authority to move forward with what now would be implementation.” It's also unclear whether the federal government will now impose a federally run exchange on Idaho. “At this point I can't tell you,” Deal said. He said his office is still working to “decipher” and “digest” the decision, and likely won't know how it will proceed for several weeks. - Eye On Boise (Spokesman Review)

Original Post:

Congressman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) says despite the high court's ruling, he wants Congress to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act.  Here's part of Simpson's statement:

“While I accept the Supreme Court’s decision, I am disappointed that the government now has the ability to tax American citizens if they don’t purchase a private product and I remain concerned with the precedent that sets for the future,” said Simpson. “If Americans can be taxed for not purchasing health insurance, the government’s ability to tax, or punish, American citizens as a means of driving their behavior seems unlimited. It is difficult not to see this as an approval of the significant expansion of the power of the federal government into the everyday lives of citizens. While the Supreme Court has ruled that Obamacare is Constitutional, they have not said that it is a good idea or that it will bring down costs,” said Simpson. “Congress should re-double its effort to repeal Obamacare and begin the process of enacting market-based reforms that will truly lower costs and increase access.” - Rep. Simpson

Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) echoed the Republican message to repeal the health care law in Congress.  Sen. Crapo says the Affordable Care Act hasn't addressed the rising cost of healthcare.

"Now, we are saddled with this law that is driving up the cost of health care, and driving down access, and which we now see upheld by the Supreme Court as imposing phenomenally high new taxes on the American people." - Sen. Crapo

Crapo says as long as Democrats control the Senate,  it won't be easy to get a repeal bill before the chamber until after November's election.

You can listen for more Idaho reactions on All Things Considered on KBSX from 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM.  We'll also air an NPR special at 7 PM.