Health care executive order a hearty start

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Even if you think Gov. Butch Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little are pandering for votes with their health care executive order, give the guys some credit.

At least they’re doing something.

The executive order does coincide nicely with Little’s bid to take over as governor. But work on it actually started with Otter almost a year ago and now lines up even better with the timing of President Trump’s tax bill, which unshackled one of the most burdensome tenets of Obamacare: The fact that you’d be fined if you didn’t have insurance. As we all learned, that threat simply led many Americans to accept the fine because it was a lot cheaper than paying insurance costs folks could not afford.

What Idaho’s top guns appear to be doing with their executive order is threefold:

1. Give Idahoans more choices for health insurance at lower costs than many are paying now. Little estimates many Idahoans could see savings of about 50 percent from what they’re now paying, and as for choices, there will be at least three in every one of Idaho’s 44 counties.

2. Encourage many of the thousands of young Idahoans who aren’t covered to get coverage. You want these younger and, generally, healthier citizens in the insurance pool to help balance out those of us who are older, not as healthy and, therefore, more expensive to take care of. Insurance premiums are based on spreading the risk as far as possible, so having more healthy participants lowers premiums overall.

3. Find a way to shift 2,800 Idahoans into Medicaid coverage. These 2,800 are among the state’s sickest and, therefore, most expensive: Their combined health care costs about $200 million annually. By shifting them to Medicaid coverage, millions of dollars would be freed up for the state’s insurance exchange.

Little and Otter have made some waves with their executive order, partly because health insurance is one of the most complex and easily misunderstood mechanisms in modern society, but also because it is the first proposed solution of its kind in the U.S. While it’s probably not a panacea, we applaud its introduction as a gutsy and substantial step in the right direction.

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