Idaho officials detail health plan

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

State officials are breaking down the details of a Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s health care plan designed to help residents in the so-called Medicaid gap.

Presented as an option for an estimated 35,000 Idahoans who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little for subsidized private insurance, the Otter-backed health care plan would allow insurance companies to sell cheaper plans that don’t qualify under Affordable Care Act standards. At a legislative preview event in early January, state officials said they didn’t feel the plan was feasible under the Obama administration. With the Trump administration a year old, however, they felt the time was right to introduce it via an executive order.

The Spokesman-Review reports that the proposal, dubbed the Idaho Health Care Plan, was detailed this week in Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee presentation. The plan hinges on seeking two waivers for key federal provisions and requires authorization from both the federal government and the Idaho Legislature. In total, the program is expected to cost $100 million, with $29 million of that shouldered by state taxpayers.

“This approach will make a difference in thousands of Idahoans’ lives,” said Idaho Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron, according to The Spokesman-Review. “It will help those with severe health conditions with better coverage at lower cost. It will help families who couldn’t previously qualify for assistance because their income isn’t high enough, a basic unfairness that exists in today’s marketplace. And it will help Idahoans who are buying individual plans on Idaho’s marketplace, even outside the exchanges, with lower costs.”

Many conservatives applaud the free-market-based effort to address Idaho’s Medicaid gap, an issue that has dogged the state for years. In an interview with the Sandpoint Reader, Russ Fulcher, a former state senator who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives, said he wanted to see a similar approach pursued years ago.

“Gov. Otter, welcome to 2012,” he said, later adding, “To me it’s a little bit late, but it’s here.”

Other Idahoan individuals and organizations, including the Idaho Democratic Party and the activist group Reclaim Idaho, argue that expanding Medicaid is the more efficient, effective and practical choice. Reclaim Idaho is gathering signatures in an effort to place Medicaid expansion on the ballot, giving Idahoans control over the outcome of its health-care destiny.

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