Otter defends Little’s involvement in state health care plan
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter on Thursday defended Lt. Gov. Brad Little’s involvement in a plan to reduce health care coverage for Idahoans.
Little is currently running as a Republican candidate in the high-profile race for governor now that Otter isn’t pursuing a fourth term. Earlier this year, Little signed an executive order with Otter to permit insurance companies to sell cheap policies that don’t include key provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Otter told reporters that any concerns Little is using the plan to benefit his campaign are only being raised by opponents and the media.
“I’m stumping for the lieutenant governor all the time,” Otter said when asked where he draws the line between campaign and public service. “I’m proud of him. He’s my candidate.”
However, during the planning stages of the executive order, it was Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron who warned Otter’s office of connecting the health care plan to a campaign.
“Remember I have statutory prohibition about being involved in elections,” Cameron said in an email obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request. “It is frustrating to me but I have to be careful about my appearances with candidates and I do not want the good efforts of tomorrow to get side tracked by opponents.”
Little has traveled the state with Otter promoting the proposal after signing the executive order in early January, while his campaign has heavily touted the idea through campaign mailers and social media.
It was the first time in Otter’s 12 year tenure as governor he signed an executive order that also included the lieutenant governor’s signature.
Lieutenant governors in Idaho typically sign executive orders when serving as acting governor when the governor is out of the state or unconscious.
Boise businessman and GOP opponent Tommy Ahlquist has called Little’s involvement a campaign stunt.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador — also running in the GOP gubernatorial primary — has not weighed in publicly on the proposal or on Little’s participation in the rollout of the health care initiative. Neither have Democratic gubernatorial candidates A.J. Balukoff, a Boise businessman, and former state Rep. Paulette Jordan.
Idaho is believed to be the first state to take formal steps without prior federal approval for creating policies that do not comply with the Obama-era health care law. Some health care experts have deemed the move legally dubious.
Correspondent Rebecca Boon contributed to this report.