NAMPA — Obamacare’s requirement that health insurance companies offer policies to customers with pre-existing health conditions should be part of the controversial law that is retained, Sen. Mike Crapo said Tuesday.

Crapo said if and when Obamacare — also known as the Affordable Care Act — fails, parts of it should be built back into new health care reform.

Many elements of the new law go into effect Jan. 1.

The pre-existing conditions portion of the law is highly popular with both Democrats and Republicans, Crapo said, and Congress can act to keep it intact. Before Obamacare, insurance companies could refuse health insurance to people who had a health condition that required continuing care.

Democrats argue insurance companies could not afford to take customers with pre-existing conditions without the individual mandate element of Obamacare that requires almost everyone to purchase health insurance.

Crapo said he also likes the Obamacare idea to add more community health centers, such as the local Terry Reilly clinic, which provides affordable health care to low-income individuals.

The senator said he liked the idea of health care exchanges that Obamacare implements. But he said he wants them to be operated by state governments without federal intervention.

“Exchanges are a good idea,” Crapo said. “Idaho had been looking at creating exchanges for several years before Obamacare.”

The exchanges allow health insurance consumers to access information about different company’s plans in one place, such as a website.

Crapo spoke with members of the Idaho Press-Tribune staff. He also discussed these issues:

  • Downwinders (Idaho residents victimized by nuclear fallout from Cold War weapons testing in Nevada): “The problem with downwinders (is) in these difficult budget times, you can’t create a new spending program very easily. It’s not understood as an issue in most other states. Maybe that’s a problem, is getting the downwinders active in other states. I continue to believe that we will ultimately be able to move something” to compensate downwinders.
  • Social Security: “It’s a good reform” to raise the Social Security retirement age by one month every two years.
  • Defunding Obamacare: “I definitely think (Congress) should (defund Obamacare). I think it is increasingly becoming clear that Obamacare is exactly what those of us who fought it at the outset said it was: That it’s driving up health care costs, driving up insurance costs, driving down access.”
  • His December DUI: “I again apologize to the people of Canyon County because of that … One of the things that many people said to me was, ‘You know what, get past this and provide the kind of representation that we want you to provide.’”

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