Open enrollment starts today on Idaho’s state insurance exchange, Your Health Idaho, and runs through Dec. 15. There are 299 plans being offered on the Idaho exchange this year, from four medical insurance providers and three dental. “Idahoans still have a robust choice of plans and the ability to get significant relief from rising premiums through the use of a tax credit,” said YHI Executive Director Pat Kelly, “which keeps pace with premiums. For example, in 2018, the average monthly health insurance premium for a 35-year-old receiving a tax credit will increase by just $1 a month if they are enrolled in the second lowest cost silver plan.”
The exchange only covers the individual insurance market; people who have coverage through their employers aren’t eligible. In 2017, 105,977 Idahoans purchased plans on the exchange during the open enrollment period; Idaho has one of the highest participation rates in the country.
Rates for plans on the Idaho exchange are rising for 2018 by 27 percent on average, and 40 percent for silver plans. But the tax credits are rising as well, so there’s little increase for the 80 to 84 percent of Idaho exchange purchasers who qualify for the credits that help subsidize their insurance.
Idaho’s rates for 2018 were approved with the loss of federal CSR, or cost-sharing reimbursement, payments to insurers built in. If bipartisan efforts in Congress to restore those payments succeed, Idaho’s rates would drop. “We have the hard data – we know what the rates would be,” state Insurance Director Dean Cameron said last month. “If in fact they fund ‘em tomorrow, we’ll change rates for 2018.” Overall rate increases would drop to 7 percent, he said, the increase for silver plans would drop to 20 percent or less. “That’s at a minimum.”
Kelly said this morning, “We do lots and lots of contingency planning. … We’re ready to switch if we need to.”
Customers who buy plans through Idaho’s exchange will pay a 2.29 percent fee on premiums in 2018 to fund the exchange, compared to the 3.5 percent charged by the federal insurance exchange in states that didn’t establish their own exchanges. That difference – Idaho’s fee started at just 2 percent – has saved Idahoans millions; so far, Kelly said, “I think it’s about $18 million to $20 million.”
Idaho’s exchange also utilizes Idaho insurance agents and brokers at no additional cost to customers; through a “Find help near you” link on the www.yourhealthidaho.org website, Idahoans can find a nearby certified agent, broker, or enrollment counselor to help them navigate, shop, compare and purchase a plan that works for them.