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The cost of caring Home health-care providers crucial to patients who can't afford hospital stays
Shawna Fuller, right, a registered nurse with Idaho Home Health & Hospice, talks with Mabel Peck during a visit at her home on Tuesday in Twin Falls.(ASHLEY SMITH/Times-News)

BOISE • At the beginning of Idaho’s 2012 legislative session, both Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill and House Speaker Lawerence Denney thought that establishing a state health care exchange would be a hot topic — one that might keep Idaho’s lawmakers in Boise longer than normal.

But with only a couple of weeks left in the session, both Denney and Hill said Tuesday that the issue is dead in the water.

Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, has been working on a bill that would establish a health insurance exchange in Idaho. The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires states to set up their own clearinghouse for health insurance information by January 2013; if they fail to do so, one will be imposed on them.

The exchange would allow individuals and small businesses to compare insurance policies.

Though Wood has had a bill ready for weeks, it probably won’t be introduced, Denney said Tuesday.

Wood worked with Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and other lawmakers to craft legislation that would appease the federal government while satisfying Idaho legislators who don’t want anything to do with the federal health care reform.

The issue, Denney said, isn’t Wood’s legislation. Rather, legislators feel uncomfortable passing a law to build a system for which the rules are still being written.

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Wood said he hadn’t heard leadership’s sentiment about the issue. He said the comments from Hill and Denney surprised him.

“I’m still going to try to get it in committee,”Wood said. “Idon’t know if I’ll be successful or not.”

It doesn’t help that most of Idaho’s lawmakers are against complying with the Affordable Care Act, and Idaho is one of 27 states challenging the constitutionality of the act in the U.S. Supreme Court. Without legislation to set up an exchange, Idaho will await the outcome of the challenge, which isn’t expected until June.

“We’ve never been able to get critical mass to even introduce a bill,” Denney said.

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