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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Idaho health insurance exchange

Billboards target Idaho lawmakers in their districts

Billboards bashing Idaho legislators for their votes on a state insurance exchange have begun popping up in their legislative districts. Idaho Freedom Foundation chief Wayne Hoffman says the signs are part of his group’s lobbying campaign to get Idaho’s exchange repealed in the legislative session that starts in January, but others say the effort appears aimed at Idaho’s upcoming 2014 elections, in which every seat in the Idaho Legislature will be on the ballot.

“That looks a lot more like campaigning than lobbying to me,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and a longtime observer of Idaho politics. “It’s not a traditional way of lobbying the Legislature to use billboards – in fact, I’m hard-pressed to give an example of that.” Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, who is among those targeted by name on the signs, said he views his local billboard – which is right near the hospital where he practices medicine – as an “effort to try to gin up a political opponent” for him in May’s GOP primary. “I think that’s what it’s designed to do, to be very blunt about it,” he said. “It’s political advertising.”

Hoffman, whose organization, a tax-exempt charity, is prohibited by law from engaging in campaigning, said, “We don’t get involved in elections – this has nothing to do with elections. It has to do with public policy.” He added, “They are a vehicle for lobbying lawmakers as well as the general public on an issue that will be before the Legislature in the 2014 legislative session.” Wood countered, “They push that envelope all the time.”

Two of the billboards have gone up so far; Hoffman said more are in the works. The first, in Burley, targets Wood, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley; and Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. The second, in Mountain Home, names Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, and Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson; you can read my full story here at

Exchange officials offer advice to those who experience online delays

After two days of operation of Idaho's health insurance exchange, Executive Director Amy Dowd is offering this advice to those who are experiencing delays once they hit the federal application website, to which they're routed from Idaho's site: “For those who may be having difficulty, when you get to the application, you may see a 'holding page' for a few minutes before you enter the application process. If you're at the holding page, do not refresh your browser or leave the page. If you do, you will lose your place in the virtual line to get into the application.”

Dowd said Idaho's site had 18,000 unique visitors its first day alone. In the first two days, Idaho's call center took more than 800 calls and answered more than 100 emails.

“Due to the high volume of interest, our application through has been experiencing longer than expected processing times,” she said. “We know that this is frustrating, but we really appreciate everyone’s patience. We have heard that Idahoans are getting through and that applications are processing.” Click below for Dowd's full statement.

Idaho insurance exchange inks $1.4 million contract for startup

The Idaho health insurance exchange board has selected Boston-based Public Consulting Group for its biggest contract, for professional services including information technology. The $1.4 million pact runs from July 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2014, though either party can cancel with 30 days notice. The firm is charged with handling eligibility and enrollment, consumer assistance, plan management, Medicaid integration and more for the exchange, for both Track 1, in which the exchange will start signing people up Oct. 1 with some assistance from federal systems, and Track 2, in which the full function of Idaho’s exchange will be Idaho-based, including the technology platform.

Paul Buckley, director of government affairs for the firm, said its Idaho exchange work will be managed out of its Denver office. Public Consulting Group is a provider of management consulting services to state, county and municipal governments across the nation, with a growing presence in Canada and Europe as well. It mainly focuses on health care, but has expanded into education, human services, and government information technology as well. You can read the full 22-page contract here; the exchange board announced it at their public meeting Thursday afternoon.

Idaho’s insurance exchange to start up with simple, no-frills model

A tight deadline to get Idaho's health insurance exchange running means its designers are aiming for a streamlined, straightforward web site to greet consumers when they log in for the first time come Oct. 1, the date enrollment begins as part of President Barack Obama's plan to make sure most Americans have insurance coverage, the Associated Press reports. Amy Dowd, the exchange's director, said the emphasis will be on creating a functional web site to allow individuals and small businesses to shop for insurance policies online with a minimum of confusion.

In a recent editorial, Bloomberg View  lauded Idaho Gov. Butch Otter for the state's approach, writing, “In Idaho, Butch Otter is one of just a handful of Republican governors to set up insurance exchanges on their own or in partnership with Washington. Its design will reflect Idaho’s small-government philosophy — providing a minimalist, streamlined approach, potentially offering a stark contrast with the bells-and-whistles exchanges envisioned by neighboring Oregon and nearby California. The state expects two benefits. Its exchange is more likely to be up and running on time, and its low overhead costs will be passed on to insurers in the form of lower assessment fees. That, in turn, may lead to lower premiums for people buying insurance.Governors of both parties should thank Otter and his state’s Republican legislators. If Idaho’s no-frills exchange succeeds in producing lower costs and fewer glitches, it could offer a new model for other states to follow.”

AP reporter John Miller reports that Idaho's exchange doesn't aspire to a “Cadillac-style” offering, instead shooting for a dependable, utilitarian vehicle that's clean, clear and concise for users from the day it goes live in just 2 ½ months. Click below for Miller's full report.

“We view the site as an ever-evolving destination where we can add additional information as needed,” Dowd said.

Average price for policy under Idaho’s new health insurance exchange: $240 a month

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Health coverage policies sold via Idaho's insurance exchange will cost an average of $240 per month, a figure based on the price tag of proposed policies submitted to the state Department of Insurance by insurers aiming to participate. The figure, announced Thursday in Boise by the exchange board, is merely an average. It doesn't reflect rates policy holders will actually pay, depending on their financial circumstances, eligibility for federal subsidies or their benefits package. But it offers a first glimpse of how President Barack Obama's plan to provide health insurance coverage to more Americans may impact thousands of Idaho residents' pocketbooks. State insurance regulators are now reviewing insurers' proposed policies. The exchange aims to begin enrolling participants Oct. 1, with coverage starting Jan. 1, as required by the 2010 law.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

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About this blog

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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