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One Year Later, Health-Care Reform Still Controversial

Some lawmakers still pushing to nullify federal policy

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Depending on who you talk to, March 23, either marks the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act or it's a reminder that Obamacare has gone on 365 days too long.

"It's worth celebrating," said U.S. Health and Human Services Regional Director Susan Johnson while meeting with Idaho small business leaders on March 21.

But at the exact same hour, Republican Rep. Vito Barbieri was pushing through his latest effort to stop the health reform law in its tracks.

"Its constitutionality is still in question," countered Barbieri.

The Dalton Gardens Republican has been down this road before. A previous swing at what quickly became known as "nullification" sailed through the Idaho House but stalled in the Senate recently when the Idaho attorney general indicated that the bill not only violated the U.S. and Idaho constitutions, but lawmakers' oath of office.

Barbieri tweaked the wording to reintroduce the nullification effort, directing state agencies to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a final ruling on health-care reform. Barbieri also wants to prevent Idaho agencies from taking any federal money for reforms, pending a ruling from the high court.

"I thought this was put to bed a couple of weeks ago," said Bill Hoffman of the Idaho Main Street Alliance, a coalition of small business owners in favor of the reform. "The previous bill was deemed unconstitutional. I can't understand why they're raising this again."

Hoffman and his small business colleagues said they want to move forward. On March 23, they planned on attending one in a series of stakeholder meetings hosted by the Idaho Department of Insurance. The department will be huddling with insurance carriers, agents and third party administrators as well as employers and consumer advocates for the next three weeks in an effort to gain public input for an Idaho insurance exchange.

The exchange is a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act. Its intention is to provide a competitive and transparent insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses.

Johnson said the Affordable Care Act had already impacted thousands of Idahoans through a number of initiatives including:

• Protection of 99,000 Idaho children with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage

• Free preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies, to 211,000 Idaho Medicare beneficiaries

• Sending $27.9 million in grants to Idaho to build an insurance marketplace, provide insurance to early retirees and strengthen prevention efforts

But Barbieri wants none of it. His newest Stop-Obamacare bill passed along party lines 4-3 in the House Ways and Means Committee, heading to the House for a full debate. A birthday cake is not expected.

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