Idaho needs decision on insurance exchange
Officials warn of consequences of letting federal government run programBOISE — Gov. Butch Otter and highranking state officials warned Idaho lawmakers Monday that to let the federal government run the state’s mandated health insurance exchange would hurt the state and its residents. The new federal Affordable Health Care Act requires states to create and implement health insurance exchanges or the federal government will do it for them. Idaho has until Sept. 30 to apply for a $40 million federal grant to establish a staterun exchange. The exchange intends to allow individuals and small businesses the same savings large businesses enjoy by pooling risks, market leverage and transaction costs. Otter and the state’s Health and Welfare and Department of Insurance directors addressed members of the Legislature’s health care task force about the exchange at the Statehouse. If the federal government set up the exchange instead of the state, it would cost the state about 2,500 insurance broker jobs and take response to health insurance concerns by residents out of the state’s hands, Idaho Department of Insurance Director and former Nampa legislator Bill Deal said. Otter said he was not asking lawmakers’ permission to apply for the grant, but he was just stating the facts about the decision the state faces. “The question is now whether we’re going to have a state insurance exchange or whether we’re going to have a national exchange imposed on us by the federal government ,” Otter said. Though they’re dubious of the federal overhaul, many of the state’s Republican lawmakers who attended Monday’s interim session were in step with the governor: Take the money, as long as it doesn’t lock Idaho into accepting portions of the federal reforms they don’t agree with. Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, said it’s unlikely that Idaho is going to have the money to develop exchanges on its own, given budget constraints. “When we’re having a tough time finding money to pay our part of Medicaid claims, I think $40 million is unrealistic in state money for development of the exchange,” Goedde said. “The key is if there are more strings we haven’t heard about to the federal money.” Others said time was of the essence, given the consequences of missing the deadline. “We should not be wasting any time,” said Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston. “We’re going to be extremely short-sighted if we let this opportunity pass.” z The Associated Press contributed to this report.