Posts tagged: Idaho insurance exchange
A board member of the Idaho health insurance exchange quit Wednesday, the same day the exchange awarded his company a no-bid contract worth up to $375,000, the Associated Press reports. Frank Chan resigned from the Your Health Idaho board to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, board members said. Chan's company, Boise-based Applied Computing, will serve as the exchange's information technology consultant; click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Earlier this year, Miller reports, Chan was appointed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to help oversee the Internet marketplace created under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. It allows people to shop for insurance and learn if they qualify for federal subsidies. He had been technology chairman of the 19-member volunteer board. Chan will now earn $180 an hour to oversee the exchange's technology vendors as it works to replace a glitch-filled federal software system with one that's state-based by next year. The exchange is seeking a $50 million, taxpayer-funded grant from the federal government to pay for that project.
Idaho's state health insurance exchange, Yourhealthidaho.org, has been touting the big savings it offers Idahoans over a federal exchange, since its fee on policies has been set at just 1.5 percent, compared to 3.5 percent for federally run exchanges. But the Associated Press reports that emails obtained under the Idaho Public Records Law show exchange officials have been discussing a possible hike in that fee to 2.6 percent by 2016, to meet requirements that the exchange be self-sustaining by then. That would still offer savings compared to a federal exchange, but would be significantly higher than the current fee, cutting into the amount of savings for Idahoans.
Exchange finance chief Pat Kelly planned a presentation to the exchange's finance committee in early September on the possible fee hike, but executive director Amy Dowd canceled it, saying the numbers were too preliminary to be ready for public consumption. “The reason we weren't comfortable publishing 2.6 percent is, we have no clue what the number is going to be,” Dowd told the AP. “We've done some modeling, we've got some data, but as far as our comfort level, putting a number out today is not a wise decision.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Idaho’s new health insurance exchange still is seeing frustrating computer system delays, but it’s accomplishing its other goals, state lawmakers heard this morning: In-state people are taking the calls from consumers, the state’s Department of Insurance is regulating the plans offered, and buyers are being referred to Idaho insurance agents and brokers. Plus, Idahoans should save millions over the coming year, compared to the cost of letting the federal government run its exchange. That’s because buyers of plans on federally run exchanges pay a 3.5 percent fee to cover the cost of the exchange; Idaho’s fee is just 1.5 percent. The Legislature’s joint Health Care Task Force heard a report on the exchange’s progress at its meeting today; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Idaho’s premiums through its new state health insurance exchange so far are coming in below the average, Joy Wilson, director of health and human services policy for the National Conference of State Legislatures, told Idaho lawmakers this morning. “The rates vary tremendously from state to state,” Wilson told the Legislature’s joint Health Care Task Force. She offered some figures for a 27-year-old, before any tax credits: For the lowest “bronze” level benefit plan, the average was $163 a month; Idaho’s rate is $150. For the lowest silver plan, average was $203, Idaho’s is $182; and for the lowest gold-level plan, average is $240 and Idaho’s rate is $211. For catastrophic plans, Idaho was slightly above the average for a 27-year-old, at $134, compared to $129.
Alaska and Wyoming have the highest rates, Wilson said, because “they’re people-challenged – they don’t have a lot of people, so there’s not a lot of competition. And their rates reflect that.” She said, “We’ll have to see where rates go over time. … Insurers are being cautious. Most of them are staying in markets that they’re familiar with, they’re not branching out.”
Wilson told lawmakers the initial comparisons show “you come out pretty well, actually, in terms of your rates. And this will make a difference, of course, in terms of your take-up. Rates are going to be very important, particularly to the young people.”
Things are busy at Idaho’s health insurance exchange today as enrollment opens, but the system hasn’t crashed as several other state exchanges around the country have reported. Instead, there are slowdowns, but everything’s functioning, and the state’s in-person assistants and insurance agents and brokers have been able to access the system. “It really is a higher volume than I think a lot of people may have thought, but it’s a positive response at this point,” said Alberto Gonzalez, operations manager for the Idaho exchange, Yourhealthidaho.org.
Ten workers at a temporary Boise call center have been taking calls non-stop all morning; Gonzalez said the average wait time has been only a minute and a half, with the longest wait at 5 minutes. “I think we’re handling the calls pretty well,” he said. Across the state, 120 in-person assisters have been trained to help people navigate the exchange, including figuring out what kind of help they may be eligible for, and how to compare and choose health insurance plans. Callers or visitors to the website can be referred to in-person assisters, agents or brokers in their area.
Idaho’s exchange website, for now, routes applicants to the federal exchange website for signups, but the state is developing its own. “We could not get the technology in place in just a few months,” Gonzalez said. But he said by a year from now, in October of 2014, “We’ll be on a full state-based exchange technology.”
Exchange officials stressed that whether people sign up today or any time between now and Dec. 15, coverage will start Jan. 1.
Idaho’s state health insurance exchange opens Tuesday, allowing about 200,000 uninsured Idahoans to begin enrolling in health insurance plans; the coverage starts Jan. 1. Amy Dowd, a health care consultant hired in April to run Idaho’s exchange, told the AP’s John Miller, “We don't have a set target we're expecting for enrollment. Our goals for our open enrollment period are to educate, get the word out that this is available.” Click below for Miller’s full report on the exchange startup, including a by-the-numbers roundup of costs, salaries, carriers, where to call and more.
Meanwhile, S-R reporter John Webster has a report here on the health care reform law changes and what they mean for you, whether you’re on Medicare or Medicaid, insured through your employer, have individual coverage now or are uninsured.
Idaho’s state health insurance exchange announced today that it will offer 161 health insurance plans at various coverage levels, from eight providers, when it opens for business Jan. 1; enrollment starts Oct 1. The selection will include 76 individual health plans, 55 small-group health plans for small businesses, 13 individual dental plans and 17 small-group dental plans. “We are pleased that our Idaho insurance companies have offered plenty of plans to choose from,” said state Department of Insurance Director Bill Deal. “We encourage Idahoans to visit Yourhealthidaho.org and speak with a producer or in-person assister to learn more about their options.”
The exchange will allow eligible Idahoans – those who don’t already have employer-provided health coverage, and who fit certain income guidelines – to shop, compare and enroll in the various plans, and access government subsidies, if they qualify, to help offset their costs. Monthly premiums, before any subsidies, will range from a low of $160 for an individual to a high of $1,098 for a family of four. You can read the exchange’s full announcement here.
Idaho’s state health insurance exchange now has a web address: Yourhealthidaho.org. The website was unveiled at a news conference today by Gov. Butch Otter and Idaho exchange executive director Amy Dowd; it’s the site where residents and small businesses can shop for health insurance coverage provided by competing private health insurance companies, with premium costs reduced by federal subsidies; enrollment starts Oct. 1.
“I’m still against Obamacare,” Otter said. “But I recognize we do have an obligation. If Obamacare does happen to go away, it does not absolve us right here in Idaho to do what we can to take care of our own.” You can read our full report here from S-R reporter John Webster.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 222,000 Idahoans have no health insurance; many of the uninsured work for small businesses or are self-employed. The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurance companies from declining to issue health insurance because an applicant is sick, prohibits higher rates for those with existing health problems, prohibits lifetime or annual caps on the benefits insurance policies will pay, requires coverage of preventive care without co-pays, and requires standard benefit packages so consumers can make apples-to-apples comparisons when selecting a policy.
The board overseeing Idaho's health insurance exchange plans a 3-hour, 40-minute meeting behind a downtown Boise law office's closed doors where citizens will be barred Thursday — nearly twice as long as a public meeting scheduled later that day, AP reporter John Miller reports. Click below for his full report.
After a competitive RFP process, Idaho's new state-based health insurance exchange has awarded its first contract, a $200,000 contract with a communications team led by Gallatin Public Affairs to conduct statewide market research, create an initial Exchange website, develop the communication strategy, create educational materials for use around the state, manage media relations and develop the Exchange’s new branding. The contract will run through August 16, 2013, with the option to extend for additional scopes of work as needed. Other members of the team are Boise-based GS Strategy Group, a firm with local and national expertise in public opinion and consumer behavior research, and Burson-Marsteller, a full-service, integrated public relations firm with experience in large scale public education campaigns.
Click below for the exchange's announcement, which also includes announcements of staff members Jody Olson, director of communications and marketing; and Alberto Gonzalez, operations project manager; he's a former bureau chief at the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. The exchange is currently in the process of selecting a contractor for professional services, including procuring additional federal grants and helping oversee development of the system enrollees will use to select coverage and determine their eligibility for federal, income-dependent subsidies.