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Eye On Boise

Of seniors, insurance exchanges and SHIBA…

During the state Legislature's Health Care Task Force discussion this morning on health insurance exchange legislation, Rep. Carlos Bilbao, R-Emmett, said he's visited lots of senior centers and nursing homes in his district in the past few months, and has found people there both concerned and confused about the exchange and what it would mean. State Department of Insurance Director Bill Deal responded, “First of all, if you're at your senior citizen centers, you're dealing with a different group of people.” People age 65 and over qualify for Medicare and aren't a part of the exchange. “The exchange goes up to (age) 64,” he said.

Task force Co-Chairman Rep. Gary Collins, R-Nampa, noted that for seniors, Senior Health Insurance Benefits Advisors, or SHIBA, offers guidance on how to navigate the various coverage options under Medicare; SHIBA's website at the state Department of Insurance says, “We offer free and unbiased information, counseling, and assistance regarding senior health insurance. We do not sell insurance, recommend policies, agents, or specific companies. It is our goal to provide you with up-to-date and objective information to assist you in making informed buying decisions.”

Deal said the idea under the proposed Idaho health insurance exchange is that uncompensated “navigators” would fill the same role for those ages 64 and under that SHIBA does for seniors with Medicare.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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