Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Reminder Amidst Political Ploys

Yesterday, Senator Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) as co-chair of the Idaho Legislature Health Care Task Force, a few short days after Governor Otter's strong words of opposition toward congressional health care reform, and on the heels of yesterday's 7-5 vote to oppose federal health care reform had the following to say about health care: “I believe that the federal reforms will cause an additional burden on families and employers… I do not believe it will provide lower coverage or better access to coverage." Cameron went on to say, as Betsy Russell reports, that he believes it is unconstitutional to require families, individuals, and businesses to purchase health insurance.

Senator Cameron is not the only Idaho Republican to question the constitutionality of federal reform efforts, specifically the requirement that citizens attain a health insurance policy. In his recent letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi, Governor Otter posed this question: "Where does the U.S. Constitution grant Congress the power to pass legislation mandating compulsory health care coverage or creating a nationalized health care system?" Otter's former colleague in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mike Simpson, expressed his concern upon passage of the House version of health care reform that "
those individuals who choose not to purchase health insurance will have to pay a penalty." Simpson went on to say that "Americans will no longer get to choose whether or not they will purchase health insurance in the future because government will have already made that decision." Clearly, Otter and Simpson have a major problem with the fact that the federal government has anything to say about how Idahoans access health care--the specifics of that access are secondary. Surely the other members of Idaho's congressional delegation feel similarly (though Minnick may say his decision will come down to cost, a vote for health care reform in his mind really is a vote for "socialized medicine").

If they each believe it is unconstitutional for the federal government to ask its citizens to purchase health insurance, what is it then if the state they represent requires some of its residents to purchase health insurance? Irony? Hypocrisy? You tell me.

As chairman of the Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee (JFAC), Senator Cameron should know that here in Idaho since 2003 the State Board of Education has enforced a policy requiring full fee-paying college students attending classes in this state maintain adequate health insurance. Surely the SBOE, an entity created by the Idaho Constitution and one that must from time to time interact with JFAC, is not attempting to push "socialized medicine" on Idaho students. The details of the State Board of Education policy are as follows:
"Full-fee paying students attending classes in Idaho are required to maintain adequate health insurance. All full-time domestic undergraduate students taking twelve (12) or more credit hours, graduate students taking nine (9) or more credit hours and applied tech session students taking four (4) or more credits, who by current fee structure or by contractual agreement are required to pay full-time fees, are automatically enrolled in the student health insurance plan. A student must show proof of comparable coverage in order to waive coverage provided by the student health insurance plan. All international students taking one (1) or more credits hours are automatically enrolled in the student health insurance plan."
Not only do we require each full-fee paying Idahoan attending classes at any of our state colleges or universities to carry health insurance, we specify exactly how much coverage that Idahoan must be carrying to attend classes. If an Idahoan wishing to attend school in-state cannot provide proof of continuous enrollment in an alternative U.S.-based health insurance plan with comparable benefits to a student health insurance plan ("comparable benefits" as per the state board policy include Medical benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness, including maternity coverage, and a deductible not to exceed $2,000.00 per accident or illness), that student is automatically enrolled in an insurance program and must pay the entire semester premium upfront.

What's more, we don't only require this of Idahoans attending school here, we require it of students from out-of-state who choose to come to our state schools (who are already paying an additional price by way of out-of-state tuition)
and we require international students purchase a policy that is only effective while they are "in-network." Neither out-of-state tuition payers nor international students have any knowledge of our state constitution, but they are absolutely responsible for carrying an insurance policy required by this state's constitutionally-mandated board of education.

While Senator Cameron and the Republicans in the statehouse, Governor Otter, Senators Crapo and Risch, and Congressmen Minnick and Simpson stand in opposition to any health care reform legislation that may pass Congress and make it to the President's desk, the recession and poor leadership are forcing dangerous cuts to education in this state and as tuition keeps rising, students (Idahoans or not) remain required to carry health insurance. Is your message to Idahoans 'do as I say, not as I do'? Because while you posit yourselves as defenders of "good government," a phrase most of us are sick of, the facts make you all look like fools in glass houses.

1 comment :

Unknown said...

The government (all government) have completely lost their way. It is difficult to imagine that no politician still believes, or remembers this country belongs to we the people. I am ashamed of the politics and politicians we vote for. Money has taken our government from us and the power legislators have assumed seem to deny any access for the common person to arbitrate decisions being made on our behalf. K street should be abolished. Financial lobbying of the sort presently taking place should be (probably is) a crime. As a citizen of this country I feel it is my duty to take action, I believe we should separate from this tyranny and start again. It is time for "all" politicians to pack their bags and go home.