Idaho state senator invokes Holocaust in email

BOISE, Idaho — A Republican state senator has compared the role of insurance companies in the federal health care overhaul to the plight of Jews during the Holocaust, a newspaper reported.

Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, made the analogy this week on Twitter and in more than 100 emails sent from her Senate account, the Spokesman-Review said Wednesday.

Nuxoll has been a staunch opponent of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Two years ago, she compared the law to Nazi Germany, claiming it would allow the federal government to take away children by setting up programs involving families.

The second-term senator continued her rhetoric this week as state lawmakers began debating the merits of approving a state-built health insurance exchange.

In an email obtained by the newspaper, Nuxoll accused the federal government of using private insurance companies to enact a new system of health care with a future that doesn’t include those companies.

“The insurance companies are creating their own tombs,” Nuxoll wrote. “Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange. Several years from now, the federal government will want nothing to do with private insurance companies.”

Nuxoll said her message should not be interpreted as disrespectful to the Jewish community. Instead, it was intended to depict what she considers the consequences of the new health care law, she said.

“My thing was, (Jews) didn’t know what was going on” during the Holocaust, she told the newspaper. “The insurance companies are not realizing what’s going to end up in their demise.”

The message shocked some, while others said incorporating references to one of history’s darkest periods in modern political skirmishes is foolish.

Howard Berger, who is Jewish and a history professor at the College of Idaho, told The Associated Press that such remarks are more common in rhetoric on all sides of the political spectrum.

“Cheap analogies to the greatest example of mass murder in the 20th century are just foolish, and it reflects a superficial understanding of what happened in Europe between 1938 and 1945,” said Berger, whose classes include the Holocaust and rise of the Nazis in Germany.

Hilary Bernstein, the Pacific Northwest Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League, said it’s troubling and offensive to see Holocaust and Nazi references enter political debates on subjects as unrelated as health care and — in recent weeks — policy discussions over gun control.

“Each of us is, of course, free to agree or disagree with the president’s health care plan, but comparing the implementation of a national health care policy to horrific images of the Holocaust not only trivializes those atrocities, but also obfuscates important conversations about health care in this country,” she said.

Idaho has been a leading state in rebelling against the Affordable Care Act. It was the first state in the nation to pass bills requiring legal action challenging the law’s constitutionality.

But in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court decision and Obama’s re-election, some Idaho political leaders are taking steps they say are in the state’s best interests.

On Tuesday, lawmakers agreed to debate the merits of a bill introduced by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter that would require the state to develop its own online marketplace for health insurance products — a key component to the new federal law.

“This is a very emotional issue for a lot of people,” said Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. “As we get closer to making that decision, the rhetoric’s going to get more dramatic. I don’t think this is exclusive to Sen. Nuxoll.”

Idaho’s health insurance industry supports the state-based exchange and is spending lavishly during the legislative session on lobbying to win votes.

Industry officials also say a state-run marketplace will be cheaper and more efficient than the federal alternative.

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