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Otter, Idaho exchange officials defend exchange, say feds won’t run it

Gov. Butch Otter and Idaho Health Insurance Exchange Board Chairman Stephen Weeg are defending Idaho's work toward a state-based insurance exchange, after a Wall Street Journal article today pointed to decisions by Idaho and New Mexico to make use the federal government's computer platform for the exchange's initial launch as a sign that the two states are no longer committed to state, rather than federal, exchanges.

At its May 9 meeting, the Idaho exchange board voted to move on “parallel tracks” toward setting up its own IT platform for its health insurance exchange, and exploring the benefits of using the federal government's platform temporarily, until Idaho's is ready to go. Today, the board voted to take the same step for the “SHOP” portion of the exchange, which stands for Small Business Health Options Program, and is the portion of the exchange that will serve small businesses, while the rest is for individuals purchasing insurance plans.

Asked by other board members to clarify the step, Weeg said, “We’ve made a decision to use the federal government’s contractor that operates the platform to be our contractor for our platform for a short period of time, while we can get our platform fully developed.” He and other board members stressed that only Idaho insurance products would be sold under Idaho rules on the state exchange, regardless of whether it uses the federal IT platform.

Otter and Weeg distributed a guest opinion to Idaho newspapers today entitled, “Implementing state insurance exchange requires moving quickly, creatively,” in which they stressed that Idaho's still looking at a state - not federal - exchange. “Once again - and despite misleading headlines and the drumbeat of those who oppose anything short of nullifying a federal law that's already been found constitutional - our efforts will not result in a partnership or a federal exchange,” the two wrote. “Idaho is building and will have a consumer-friendly state-based exchange run by Idahoans for Idahoans.” Click below to read the full opinion piece. 

C.L. “Butch” Otter





FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                May 23, 2013                                                                                                




By Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and

Idaho Health Insurance Exchange Board Chairman Stephen Weeg


            The earnest debate that characterized the Idaho Legislature’s March approval of legislation creating the Idaho Health Insurance Exchange has shifted to intense preparation for meeting a critical deadline in early October.

            Since being appointed April 10 to shepherd the process according to the newstate law, the Exchange Board’s fast-track mission has been to create an online health insurance marketplace designed, driven and controlled by Idahoans to help our fellow citizens research and obtain affordable coverage that’s right for them.  The ambitious goal is to have the Internet marketplace ready by October for Idaho residents to begin enrolling to determine their eligibility for Medicaid or subsidies on insurance policies they can begin purchasing through the Exchange in January 2014.

            By the time the initial enrollment period ends next April, the Exchange will be helping Idahoans meet their needs for health insurance and improved access to care. But here’s the catch: The Obama administration will impose a federal exchange in Idaho unless we have ours operating by October.  Meeting the deadline will require us to move quickly and act creatively.

            We reject the idea of the federal government operating an exchange in Idaho, so the state Exchange Board has been working aggressively to navigate the complex requirements and meet the deadlines. The effort is driven by a unanimous commitment to maintaining state control, even if it means temporarily borrowing technology from the federal government. 

            The October deadline and our need to be fiscally responsible means using that existing technology effectively, efficiently and – we emphasize – temporarily as we develop and test each part of the exchange. It is a sensible, responsible first step to help ensure we do not default to a federal exchange while giving our vendors time to properly integrate the exchange components.

            Once again – and despite misleading headlines and the drumbeat of those who oppose anything short of nullifying a federal law that’s already been found constitutional – our efforts will not result in a partnership or a federal exchange. Idaho is building and will have a consumer-friendly state-based exchange run by Idahoans for Idahoans.

            We both have been impressed by the commitment of Exchange Board members. These Idahoans, your neighbors, have worked tirelessly since their appointment to achieve the goals expressed in the enabling legislation and to keep us on track for an Idaho-based exchange. We are confident they have the best interest of Idaho in mind and that they bring the necessary knowledge and skills to bear on making the Idaho Health Insurance Exchange work for you and a model for others to follow.






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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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