I'm sitting down in my office in the speckled light of the disco ball.
Upstairs we just debated and then passed roughly 11 to 23 the "Idaho Health Freedom Act."
As families around the state pencil out wages and insurance costs, as they stress over whether they can still afford rising health premiums or risk shrinking coverage and care, we passed a bill that danced completely around the issue of health and whether people are able to afford it anymore. We debated for over an hour but the words are all air. We too danced in our political factions like John Travolta spinning in his white suit on that 70s disco dance floor.
While today small business owners sat down with employees to apologize for canceling health plans they could no longer afford, the Idaho legislature, an entity that refuses to regulate Idaho insurers except in the most minimal of ways, talked about freedom from government imposition, freedom from mandates. The Commerce Committee which supposedly regulates private insurance repeats its motto each week like a theme song "We don't do mandates. We don't do them at all." That means we won't tell insurers to stop denying treatment for certain illnesses; we won't tell them to stop refusing to replace a child's prosthetic legs; to stop refusing to cover an oral chemo therapy drug while covering that same drug if its given intravenously; we won't tell them to stop refusing to insure people with pre-existing conditions; to stop denying claims as a first resort, paying them only if the insured person has read enough fine print to know they have a right to appeal or challenge the company and its endless dancing army of lawyers.
While people all across the state chose today between paying the cost of their medications and paying for food, heat, or rent, we the Idaho legislature talked about liberty and justice and how liberty is less regulation not more -- even if having to choose food over a heart medication is not liberty or justice at all.
Today we ignored the fact that it is the weight of paying for care for those who can not afford insurance or care that has caused health costs to rise.
Today we seemed to declare we have no responsibility at all to protect the people of Idaho from the giant and powerful insurance companies we have created in our vacuum of alternatives. But is it really freedom to offer no choice to the average American family except 1) pay hundreds of dollars a month for private insurance or 2) take full fiscal responsibility for the entire cost of any cancer, accident, illness or chronic condition someone in your family may face? What if people would prefer to buy into medicaid or medicare? What if they would prefer something besides private insurance just to give themselves some certainty that what they think is covered will be covered -- some certainty that after paying for decades into an insurance plan that they will not lose everything anyway when they or someone they love gets sick, really sick.Where is the freedom there?
Is this the best we can offer as a state? Declare our sovereignty and do nothing more?
No it seems we won't solve this crisis for tens of thousands of Idahoans. We will just put on our shiny pointy shoes and dance around it trying to make people more afraid of change and of the federal government than they are of the uncertainty of what lies ahead in our current broken system where anything can happen anytime and you have no choice at all but to hope you are one of the lucky ones who doesn't get really sick until you are of age to have finally earned solid, affordable, efficient government care.