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Why Idaho Has a State-Based Health Insurance Exchange

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May 20 is “Primary Election Day” and candidates for elected offices have been participating in numerous forums, expressing their positions on issues and answering questions from the forum participants.

One issue that has been significant for the legislative candidates, including myself, is the Idaho Insurance Exchange that the legislature approved last year.  Some legislative candidates are stating that if they are elected, one of their first actions will be to support repeal of the state health exchange. They feel that passage of the Idaho state exchange was just giving into the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). They argue that by repealing the exchange it would help defeat Obamacare.

I supported the Idaho Health Exchange and offer the following as reasoning for my support:

Because Idaho Governor Otter and many members of the legislature (including myself) were opposed to the Affordable Care Act we were one of the first states to file a lawsuit challenging the act’s constitutionality; however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Idaho and other states that challenged the act. 

Like it or not, Obamacare is the law and only Congress can repeal the law or amend it; state legislatures do not have that option. We could repeal the state insurance exchange legislation but then the default would be the federal exchange.

The decision by the Supreme Court left every state wotj one of two choices: to develop its own state-run exchange or default to the federal government’s health insurance exchange program. 

Those states that chose not to implement their own exchange, either because they wanted to “nullify” the law or just plain ignore it, are now in the position of having their citizens subject to an exchange implemented and controlled by the federal government. There is no state that doesn’t have a health insurance program being implemented!

Idaho’s Governor and legislature opted to choose a state-run health insurance exchange that would limit the federal government’s control and could be designed to meet the particular needs of Idaho citizens.

The federal exchange has experienced significant technical problems while our program has operated fairly well. Even though we have had to use the federal website to initiate the program, we will soon be entirely independent of the federal program. 

Idaho is second in the nation per capita for plan selection and we have one of the lowest cost exchanges in the country. While other state residents are charged a 3.5 percent premium tax to fund the federal program, Idaho has been successful in keeping its fee at 1.5 percent.

We have kept control of the program in Idaho. Our program is run by a board comprised of Idahoans that are charged with the responsibility of solving problems that may arise with the exchange and are accountable for the operation and transparency of the program.

We pick those who are designated as navigators to assist consumers in understanding  the exchange program and we retain control over their actions. 

In many federally run states, entities such as Planned Parenthood are receiving payment to act as agents of the program. As an example, in Montana where they opted for the federal exchange, Planned Parenthood received $295,604 to help implement the exchange. Idaho does not use Planned Parenthood; we use partners that observe our conservative values.

Idaho’s plans are all approved and regulated by our own Department of Insurance and must comply with Idaho law. For instance, Idaho’s plans follow Idaho law prohibiting abortion or abortion related coverage.

Idaho citizens signing on to the state exchange have 146 different medical and dental programs to choose from to better meet their insurance needs. 

Idaho has also kept insurance agents and brokers as the main source of information for those subscribing for coverage through the exchange.  Personnel assisting citizens in applying for insurance have had background checks similar to FBI background checks and have received training to help people compare rates, evaluate benefits and understand any premium assistance that might be available.  

More importantly, while the federal exchange requires detailed personal information in order to access the federal exchange, Idaho citizens are allowed to browse plans and check rates anonymously before signing on to a specific insurance plan.  

In summary, Idaho’s choice was never between a state-run exchange and no exchange at all. The Supreme Court denied us that option; it was only a choice between a state run program that could be designed specifically to meet the needs of Idaho with as little federal government control as possible, or an exchange that was totally under the control of the federal government.  

I believe Idaho made the right choice!!

As always, feel free to contact me with your thoughts on the health insurance exchange program or other issues important to you.  My home phone is (208) 265-0123 and my e-mail is geskridge(at)coldreams.com.   My mailing address is:  P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho 83825.

And, welcome back River Journal and the opportunity for your readers to once again “Wade through the Journal” to find articles that they find interesting and timely.



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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

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