Former HHS Secretary Urges Lawmakers to Move Forward With Insurance Marketplace

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Health care reform was on the menu today for a Boise luncheon packed with lawmakers and Chamber of Commerce members from each corner of Idaho. A side order of politics was also served up.

A man who knows a lot about both was the featured speaker: Michael Leavitt, the three-term governor of Utah and former secretary of Health and Human Services, under President George W. Bush. Levitt also served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The gathering of the Idaho Chamber Alliance wasn't necessarily neutral regarding the Affordable Care Act. As each attendee opened the agenda to the program, tucked inside was a flier that said, "Say no to a federal exchange because the right solution for Idaho is a state exchange."

Leavitt urged attendees to get going on developing Idaho's own health care marketplace, rather than default to a federal version.

"You have three choices," said Leavitt, referring to what he called Obamacare. "Number one: fight it and die. Number two: accept it and maybe you'll get a chance to change it. Number three: lead it and prosper."

Levitt pointed to his home state of Utah's exchange, which is still not federally qualified under the guidelines set by the ACA. But he insisted that it would be a part of a group of at least 25 other states designing their own exchanges, forcing the White House's hand to acknowledge local control.

"I don't believe HHS won't approve those," he said.

Now retired from public service, Leavitt has a very personal stake in health care. He has returned to his family-owned Leavitt Group, which is now the nation's second-largest privately held insurance brokerage, including its Boise office.

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