Billboards are popping up in Mini Cassia main streets and Hiland Avenue – criticizing legislators who voted for the state health insurance exchange, proclaiming “They didn’t need to implement ObamaCare.” More billboards are being planned. The signs were put up by the Idaho Freedom Foundation in a campaign to revoke the state insurance exchange in 2014, said Wayne Hoffman, foundation president.
“I’m disappointed from a couple of standpoints,” said Cameron, a Rupert insurance and investment broker. “Clearly, the Idaho Freedom Foundation is engaging in campaigning and that’s against their non-profit charter. And the information on the billboard is misleading and not factual.” Hoffman said in a telephone interview with the Times-News that IFF is a non-partisan, educational research institute and government watchdog dedicated to improving the lives of Idaho residents.
“We put those up because the legislators made a huge error,” Hoffman said. “And they have a chance to correct that error next year.” Due to the foundation’s tax-exempt status, it is barred from engaging in campaigning. Cameron said that the foundation was targeting him and Wood as they were in favor of the health insurance law in 2010. Wood had spoken to Betsy Russell, and said, that the opposition was in an “effort to try to gin up a political opponent” for him in May’s GOP primary. “I think that’s what it’s designed to do, to be very blunt about it,” Wood said. “It’s political advertising.”
Cameron also said the billboards were targeting Speaker Bedke in a bid to unseat him. “It’s hard-ball, high-stakes politics and it goes clear back to the previous election,” Cameron said. According to Hoffman, the billboards were put up in October when none of the parties were listed for elections. He said the foundation was trying to give a message with 3 points – that the legislator had an option not to vote for Obamacare and single out the legislators who had voted for this law and also inform people that they could repeal this the next year.
Hoffman felt that the legislators who voted for the insurance exchange were “assisting in the implementation of the President’s ObamaCare.” Differences between the federal and state exchange sites are that the state site is cheaper but there are paid navigators like Planned Parenthood and executives from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) who assists the insurance customers on the federal site.
Cameron said the state could either keep some local control by setting up the state insurance exchange or having a federal government exchange, with loss of control. He said the state’s Attorney General is still looking into the state’s legal options. “Even if we would have sued, we’d still have an insurance exchange in Idaho.” He said. The exchange just would have been under federal control.
According to Cameron, the site still has assistance by organizations to help customers. The state also requires background checks on all assisting persons who have access to customers’ personal information. Even if Hoffman managed to repeal the next year “I would be shocked if that bill gains any traction,” Cameron said.
Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number: 2710062)
Laura Welch, November 2013