More heat: Idaho GOP chairman says party’s opposition to health exchange ‘irrefutable’

Idaho Republican Party Chairman Barry Peterson reminded the 85 Republicans in the 105-member Legislature that the party’s State Central Committee has voted to oppose GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s push for a state-run health exchange.

“We have a great respect for Governor Otter and the work he is doing,” Peterson said in a news release late Thursday morning. “We believe he is sincere when he says he wants a state Insurance exchange to protect Idahoans from the federal government. However, the party is not convinced by Governor Otter’s arguments. A state insurance exchange doesn’t protect us from the federal government; it invites further federal control.”

Peterson’s statement came just hours before the Senate Commerce Committee is to resume its hearing on Otter’s proposal, with Otter Chief of Staff David Hensley as the lead-off witness at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Peterson was a compromise candidate for party chairman, receiving Otter’s blessing last year. Otter had vowed that he would not repeat the experience of having a party chairman he didn’t support, as happened in 2008 when now-Congressman Raul Labrador and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna helped engineer the ouster of Otter’s choice, Kirk Sullivan. The winner, lobbyist and Eagle City Councilman Norm Semanko, left the party post last year.

Peterson’s news release follows:

Chairman Peterson Statement on Idaho Healthcare Exchange
The Idaho Republican Party today reminded the Idaho State Legislature that the state’s Republicans stand opposed to the creation of a state health insurance exchange. The reminder comes as the State Senate is considering Senate Bill 1042, which would create an insurance exchange under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“The Idaho Republican Party’s position is clear and irrefutable. We want no part of Obamacare. We want the state to reject the implementation of a health insurance exchange. We want the state to appropriate no money for an insurance exchange, and we want Idaho to be among the growing number of states that have refused to go along with an insurance exchange,” said Idaho GOP Chairman Barry Peterson.
Peterson added, “We have a great respect for Governor Otter and the work he is doing. We believe he is sincere when he says he wants a state Insurance exchange to protect Idahoans from the federal government. However, the party is not convinced by Governor Otter’s arguments. A state insurance exchange doesn’t protect us from the federal government; it invites further federal control.”
Peterson noted that Governor Otter personally asked the Central Committee’s Resolution Committee to reject the resolution opposing a state insurance exchange, but the committee voted overwhelmingly in support of the resolution. Members of the Central Committee were also told of the Governor’s objections, but they too approved of the resolution.
“This is not about our Governor,” Peterson said. “This is about cementing in place a law that we believe will do great harm to our state and country. This issue is bigger than any one person. The Central Committee is asking that the state maintain its opposition to a state insurance exchange. Remember, the Idaho State Legislature passed the ‘Idaho Health Care Freedom Act’ in 2010, opposing any and all Obama healthcare programs. We whole-heartedly accept and support that law. If Idaho’s Republican lawmakers decide to embrace Obamacare, Idaho will be making it difficult for other states to continue their resistance.”

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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