Idaho’s Republican Gov. Butch Otter could give the current occupant of the Oval Office a run for his money when it comes to completely misunderstanding policy. On Friday, Otter signed an executive order ostensibly designed to cover the Medicaid gap—the people who make too much to qualify for the state’s extremely stingy Medicaid rules, but not enough to purchase health insurance on the state’s health exchange, set up under the Affordable Care Act. In doing so, Otter set the state up for a costly potential legal fight that it would be pretty much ensured to lose. Otter’s order would allow insurers in the state to sell health plans that don’t meet the federal law’s coverage requirements.
While details are still being worked out, officials said that under the order insurers might not have to cover all of ObamaCare’s essential health benefits, which include areas like maternity care and mental health coverage.
State officials said they are trying to move forward with the changes on their own without any action from Washington, seeking to give people cheaper options. However, some have raised questions about whether that is legal.
Because he’s kind of dim, and is surrounded by equally dim advisors, he believes that the repeal of the individual mandate in the law that was included in the tax bill allows him to do this. “Congress and President Trump have eliminated the individual mandate requiring all Americans to buy Obamacare plans or face financial penalties,” Otter said. Yes that part is true. But then he said this. “That means we will no longer be penalized for buying coverage that doesn’t meet all the Obamacare rules.” Which, no. The rules for essential health benefits are still in place. The mandate had nothing to do with that.
Tim Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University, said he doubted Idaho’s action would be legal.
“States can’t say we’ve decided we’re not going to follow the federal law anymore,” Jost said. “We tried that in the 1860s and it didn’t work.”
The blunder left the state’s director of the department of insurance, Dean Cameron, trying to clean up the mess. He explained that he was not preparing for major changes to the essential health benefits but that “most of the essential health benefits if not all of them.” Yeah. No. States can’t kind of comply with federal law, picking and choosing the parts they like.