By Zach Hagadone
Open enrollment for the Your Health Idaho insurance marketplace began Nov. 1 and will close Monday, Dec. 16. In the meantime, officials including Executive Director Pat Kelly recently toured the state getting the word out about the 2020 plan year enrollment period, the seventh since Your Health Idaho launched in 2013.
“We’re really encouraging people to start early; don’t wait for the last minute,” Kelly told the Reader during his swing through Sandpoint in early November.
About 103,000 Idahoans are currently enrolled through the marketplace, which offers tax credits to nine out of 10 participants, saving more than 80% on the cost of premiums. About 25% of enrollees pay nothing per month, Kelly said.
“That’s really due to people shopping around; working with an agent or broker — they’re really the experts in this space,” he said, adding that with an average monthly premium of $500, all but $100 is covered by the tax credit.
That was the big message of the Your Health Idaho tour: informing prospective enrollees of the tools at their disposal through the marketplace.
Kelly said anyone can go to yourhealthidaho.org, enter basic information such as where they live, their income level and household size, then receive a tax credit estimate and comparisons of the 129 plans on the marketplace. Likewise, livebetteridaho.org — a collaboration between government agencies, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and community services — provides an anonymous, no-cost way to view a suite of services and resources, including connecting with state-licensed, Your Health Idaho-certified agents or brokers for free.
“We know that Idahoans like to talk to their trusted advisers … and those agents fit the bill for that,” he said.
This year will be unique for the marketplace, however, as the expansion of Medicaid eligibility approved by the Idaho Legislature in 2018 takes effect Jan. 1, 2020. That means Idahoans making 100-138% of the federal poverty level will be “newly Medicaid eligible.” For a family of four, that means an annual household income of between $25,750 and $35,535. Currently, 258,209 Idahoans are enrolled in Medicaid and the Childrens Health Insurance Program, an increase of 8.42% since 2013, according to Medicaid.gov.
That number is sure to increase with the expansion of eligibility after Jan. 1, including about 18,000 people currently enrolled in Your Health Idaho. When the new Medicaid rules go into effect, those people in the 100-138% FPL category will see their Your Health Idaho enrollment canceled, and they will need to ensure coverage under the federal program.
“People that are on Your Health Idaho are automatically renewed for the coming year, so the vast majority of our customers will have already been auto-renewed for 2020,” Kelly said, adding that while “we will lose some of our enrollment” with Medicaid expansion, “we’ve been very conservative in how we’ve planned. With this Medicaid expansion initiative, we’re able to weather that decline in enrollments and really thrive financially.”
Your Health Idaho’s ability to support itself has been a critical condition of its existence since 2013, when it was created amid a robust political debate in Boise.
“It’s hard to talk about health insurance without talking about politics,” Kelly said. “One of the mandates from the governor and the Legislature was that we would focus on Idahoans, it would be local and it would save money.”
The marketplace has met those conditions, he added, with $33 million saved since its inception and without the use of federal dollars. What’s more, Your Health Idaho — which is a government entity but not a state agency — is the cheapest and highest per capita enrolled state-based marketplace in the country.
“We have executed exactly on what the Legislature asked us to do,” Kelly said.
Still, 13% of Idahoans remain uninsured — down from 19% in 2013 but still higher than the 10% national average, according to data released in October by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Numbers like that underscore the urgency with which Your Health Idaho officials are reaching out for the current enrollment period, with statewide TV and radio ads, marketing on Hulu and Pandora streaming services, and a broad public relations campaign on all major social media platforms.
“We know that coverage is really important to people,” Kelly said. “Act early. We know people like to wait until the last minute, but we encourage people to start early.”
For Your Health Idaho enrollment information, tax credit estimates and plan comparisons, go to yourhealthidaho.org. For more on available services and resources based on your age, household size and income, visit livebetteridaho.org. For more information and to apply for Medicaid, go to medicaidexpansion.idaho.gov.
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