Insurance enrollment open through Dec. 15

Navigating the options for health care in a time of uncertainty

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

There may be uncertainty from Washington, D.C., surrounding health care, but Your Health Idaho isn’t going anywhere.

The state insurance marketplace, established following the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, opened on Nov. 1 for enrollment in 2018 health care plans. With a dramatically shortened window to enroll for next year’s plans, Your Health officials are urging Idahoans to make an appointment with a broker as soon as possible.

“I would encourage people to start (the process) earlier. It’s a very short window this year,” said Pat Kelly, executive director of Your Health Idaho.

Unlike previous years where the opportunity to sign up extended well into the new year, those seeking a health care plan for 2018 have between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15 to make decisions. Fortunately, Your Health Idaho has resources in place to help people find a plan that fits their needs and budgets.

According to Kelly, the state’s team of 900 trained brokers are one of residents’ best options for finding the right insurance plan. Your Health Idaho has been working closely with brokers over the past several months to prepare them through online and in-person training sessions and certifications 2for the busiest season of the year.

“It’s really been a focus of making sure they’re educated (about all the options),” Kelly said.

“The more we can train that agent and broker network, the more we can serve our customers,” he added.

Brokers are the best way to ensure you’ve covered all your options when choosing a health care plan. With so many options and carriers to choose from, brokers have the knowledge and expertise to narrow down the options based on individual financial circumstances and health needs. It’s easy to find a certified broker regardless of where you live in Idaho — simply visit, click on the home-page button to find a broker and enter your ZIP code. The computer then does the work for you.

According to Kelly, even those skeptical on whether or not they can make insurance fit their budget may be surprised at the feasibility of certain plans. And given that broker counseling is absolutely free, the only thing residents have to lose is a little time.

“When was the last time you got expert help for free?” Kelly asked.

The sheer number of options may surprise those who have not yet investigated the insurance marketplace, Kelly said. Your Health Idaho features 299 plans offered through seven insurance carriers, covering essential medical needs like doctor visits, emergency services, prescription medication, preventative screenings, maternity care and lab tests. What’s more, around 80 percent of Idahoans qualify for a tax credit, meaning that health coverage may be surprisingly affordable. Your Health Idaho is the only state outlet to receive tax credits that make insurance premiums more manageable.

“We’ve got a robust set of plans and carriers,” said Kelly. “The decrease in federal funding really doesn’t impact Idaho.”

That funding decrease primarily comes from President Donald Trump’s decision in October to end cost sharing reduction payments, which lessened the cost for insurance companies to offer plans that featured reduced out-of-pocket payments for low-income Americans. According to Kelly, Your Health Idaho was able to anticipate that change and work around it, meaning it should have minimal impact on the state.

“That’s an example of how we listened to the messages from Washington but stayed focused on Idaho,” Kelly said.

“Idaho has always been forward-looking,” he added. “We’re trying to anticipate the changes that are coming.”

Given the mixed messages coming from Washington, D.C., about the future of the Affordable Care Act and health care in general, Kelly said it’s difficult to say exactly how federal direction will shape state exchanges in the future. However, he noted that most of the Congressional health care bills that were discussed and ultimately failed this year included long runways for implementation. Regardless of what the future brings, Kelly said he and his team are focused on ensuring Your Health Idaho serves Idahoans as capably as it can.

“While we’re certainly expecting change from Washington, we’re really focused on serving Idaho,” he said.

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