BOISE • After court fights, a task force and resistance, Idaho has taken the first legislative steps to implement a health insurance exchange.

On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee voted unanimously to introduce a bill to set up a state-run insurance exchange in Idaho.

David Hensley, chief of staff to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, introduced the bill to the committee.

“To Gov. Otter, this is a states’ rights issue,” Hensley said during the print hearing. If Idaho doesn’t set up its own exchange, the governor feels the state is surrendering sovereignty to the federal government, Hensley said.

Hours before the bill’s introduction, Otter’s state website put up a petition for exchange supporters to sign. That petition will go to state lawmakers, according to the website. On the site, Otter also encouraged constituents to call their legislators, and offered five reasons why Idaho should set up its own exchange instead of allowing the federal government to do so.

The bill will receive a full hearing, complete with public testimony, in coming weeks. Watch the Times-News for continuing coverage.

Here’s a breakdown of what the bill contains:

• The exchange’s governing board would consist of 16 members: Two non-voting members and 14 voting members appointed by the governor.

• The director of the board and the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare would serve as the two non-voting board members.

• Of those 14 voting members, three represent different health carriers, two represent producers, three represent consumer interests, four represent small business interests, and two represent health care providers.

• Board members would not be state employees.

• Board members could not impose penalties or fees on anyone who doesn’t participate in the exchange.

• The exchange must be financially self-sufficient, and can’t ask for state funds.

• Upon passage, the bill would go into effect immediately.

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