Eye On Boise

Glitch leaves 6,000 Idahoans in 'no-man's land' as they seek health insurance

Idaho Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong discusses the state's Medicaid program in a presentation to the Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Monday (Betsy Russell)
Idaho Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong discusses the state's Medicaid program in a presentation to the Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Monday (Betsy Russell)

Six thousand people in 2,500 Idaho households were told they qualify for Medicaid when they went through Idaho’s health insurance exchange to attempt to buy insurance and access possible federal subsidies. But Idaho Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong said those eligibility determinations, which were done by the federal government, are suspect, and all are being reviewed. H&W has mailed all those people paper applications for Idaho Medicaid.

“We developed a small team of eligibility workers who will expedite these applications and determine eligibility within one to two days,” Armstrong told lawmakers. But in the meantime, those applicants are in “no man’s land,” not able to either get coverage under Medicaid, or purchase new insurance plans with federal subsidies. “We know this will be a terrible frustration for people,” Armstrong said, “but we have to get this right, or it is going to become even a greater quagmire. Hopefully this all is temporary.” He said, “For the long term, transitioning to a (fully) state-based exchange will solve most of these issues.”

The state expected to see up to 35,000 more enrollees in its Medicaid program with the Affordable Care Act, entirely consisting of people who already qualified, but didn’t realize it – Idaho hasn’t changed its eligibility standards. The thinking is that they’ll discover they’re eligible when they go to the exchange to try to access subsidies to buy private insurance; that’s still expected to happen, and the department has requested funding in its budget for next year to match federal funding to accommodate those increased enrollees.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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