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Posts tagged: insurance exchange

Idaho exchange part of big success story for Silicon Valley tech firm

The successful launch of Idaho’s new health insurance exchange website is part of a big success story for a Silicon Valley tech firm that's providing the software through a $37 million contract, and also working with exchanges in California, New Mexico and Mississippi.  GetInsured, headed by two tech entrepreneurs with a history of successful startups, formed as a private insurance exchange company in 2005, then got into the state exchange business after the Affordable Care Act passed; it beat out companies 10 times its size for the New Mexico contract, which is worth $39.9 million. Idaho's paid it $26 million so far; the project's on budget and on time.

“It was a great implementation,” said company spokeswoman Andrea Riggs, in Palo Alto, Calif. “It went very smoothly. … It’s a testament to the power of software as a service and the platform that we’re using.” The company’s co-founders, Chini Krishnan, above, and Shankar Srinivasan, at right, both have two-decade track records in the high-tech industry. Krishnan, the CEO, earlier played a key role in an innovative secure browser released by Enterprise Integration Technologies, and his last company, Valicert Inc., went public in 2000 and merged with Tumbleweed Technologies in 2003. Srinivasan, the chief operating officer, served as vice president of eBusiness services at JP Morgan Chase, co-founded CyberBills, and was a member of the founding team behind WebMD. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Idaho insurance exchange reports flawless enrollment launch over the weekend

Idaho’s state health insurance exchange – unlike Washington’s – reported a flawless launch over the weekend to its second open enrollment period, as the state shifted from relying on a federal technology platform to its own home-built one. “It’s 360 degrees different,” said Pat Kelly, Your Health Idaho executive director. At last year’s launch, he said, “It just plain didn’t work.” This time, he said, “We had a very successful first couple of days, no technology problems to speak of.” The Washington state exchange went down early Saturday due to a glitch over calculating tax credit information; it started back up on Sunday.

Idaho had one of the nation’s strongest enrollment rates through its state exchange last year, with 76,000 Idahoans using it to enroll in health plans and, if they qualified, receive tax credits to offset some of the costs. That made Idaho third in the nation for exchange participation, behind only Vermont and Florida.

Idaho’s exchange, approved by state lawmakers two years ago after a big fight and at the behest of GOP Gov. Butch Otter, allows the state to control the marketplace, the carriers and the plans that are offered, and to use Idaho insurance agents and brokers. Had Idaho not started its own exchange, under the federal Affordable Care Act, its residents would have used a federal insurance exchange, which charges higher fees – 3.5 percent of premiums, vs. Your Health Idaho’s 1.5 percent fee.

But Idaho wasn’t ready last year to have a website up and running for its exchange, so it relied on the federal exchange website, making Idaho’s exchange a federal-state partnership. Now, that’s all happening in-state. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Idaho insurance exchange gears up its own signup system for Nov. 15 launch

Idaho's state health insurance exchange, YourHealthIdaho.org, is gearing up for the launch of its own Internet sign-up system on Nov. 15, the start of the next open enrollment period for health plans through the exchange, the Idaho State Journal reports. “Launching our own technology platform brings all elements of the exchange into Idaho and puts Idahoans in control of our own fate,” exchange board Chairman Stephen Weeg said. “The technology will be ours, our customer service representatives will be in Idaho, and we will continue to work with Idaho agents and brokers.” When Idaho's exchange first began operating, it routed customers through the federal health insurance exchange online platform, while starting work to develop its own in-state. Click below for a full report from the State Journal and the Associated Press.

Idaho insurance exchange names new executive director, picks local after national search

Idaho’s state health insurance exchange, YourHealthIdaho, has named a new executive director: Pat Kelly, the former finance director for the exchange who was named interim executive director in July. “Pat has been with us since the very beginning and has a deep understanding of our commitment to our customers and to our state,” said Stephen Weeg, board chairman for the exchange. “After a very competitive nationwide search, we realized we already had the right leader in place.”

Kelly replaces Amy Dowd, who left in July to head New Mexico’s state health insurance exchange. Prior to joining the exchange, he was a Boise businessman, working in telecommunications, manufacturing and business consulting. Weeg said, “Pat has kept YourHealthIdaho on track during a critical time. We are less than two months away from launching our own technology platform. It has been a challenging process but Pat has been able to bring key stakeholders to the table to ensure we take care of our customers when open enrollment starts on Nov. 15.”

No changes likely for Idaho insurance exchange customers from conflicting court rulings

After two conflicting appellate court rulings yesterday - in Washington, D.C. and in Richmond, Va. - about whether federal subsidies apply to those purchasing health insurance in states that haven’t set up their own insurance exchanges, Idaho’s exchange, YourHealthIdaho.org, announced that Idahoans should see no change in their subsidies, the Idaho Statesman reports. Amy Dowd, YourHealthIdaho executive director, said in a statement, “As a state-based marketplace, Your Health Idaho has requested official guidance to confirm that this ruling does not impact Idahoans. … As we have known for some time, the benefits of being a state-based health insurance exchange far outweigh Idaho being on the federal exchange. As Idaho transitions to our own technology, we are even more confident in Idaho’s decision to maintain control of the exchange in Idaho.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Butch Otter issued a statement, the Statesman reported, saying, “While it has no immediate impact on Idaho, I hope the decision in the D.C. case eventually carries the day before the U.S. Supreme Court and leads to the end of Obamacare. But for now, it doesn’t reduce or eliminate federal control over healthcare matters in states with federal exchanges. If anything, the uncertainty from today’s conflicting decisions could make things worse for them.”

Statesman reporter Audrey Dutton reports that almost 70,000 of the 76,000 people in Idaho who bought insurance through Idaho’s exchange are getting subsidies; her full report is online here.

Idaho health insurance exchange losing two of its top four staffers

Idaho’s state health insurance exchange, YourHealthIdaho.org, is losing two of its top three staffers – Executive Director Amy Dowd is leaving to become CEO of the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange, and Alberto Gonzalez, operations project manager and a former bureau chief for the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, is leaving for a consulting firm.

Steven Weeg, chairman of the board of the Idaho exchange, said the board will work with Dowd, Gonzalez and the rest of the staff on a transition plan; Dowd was hired in 2013, and hired Gonzalez shortly afterward, along with marketing and communications director Jody Olson. The staff also includes finance director Patrick Kelly.

“We are thankful for all Amy has done for us,” Weeg said in a statement. “When she first started, Idaho’s exchange was just an idea. With her leadership we built an exchange from the ground up and beat everyone’s expectations for the first open enrollment period. Amy has put us on the right path and we are confident YourHealthIdaho will continue to succeed in the 2015 open enrollment period and beyond.”

More than 76,000 Idahoans sign up for insurance through state exchange

The numbers are in from the YourHealthIdaho insurance exchange open enrollment period, and it turns out that 76,061 Idahoans signed up for health insurance plans through the exchange. The federal government’s expectation for Idaho was 40,000 during the six-month open enrollment period. “We have significantly exceeded those estimated targets,” said Amy Dowd, executive director of the exchange. “It’s very exciting, very, very encouraging that we are on the right path. Idahoans are interested in getting insurance for themselves and their families.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

The YourHealthIdaho board has voted to keep fees at 1.5 percent of plan costs through the end of calendar year 2015; that’s compared to the fee on federally operated insurance exchanges of 3.5 percent. Exchange officials are estimating that Idahoans are saving $4.4 million on their health insurance due to the lower fee for the state exchange. That’s based on the average monthly premium rate of $242. “We are committed to keeping our assessment fees low,” Dowd said.

Idaho launched YourHealthIdaho.org at the urging of Gov. Butch Otter, after two years of extensive debate in the state Legislature. Opponents of starting a state exchange include Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who is now challenging Otter in the GOP primary. Opponents have maintained Idaho should take no part in health care reform, even though failing to start a state insurance exchange would have meant Idaho would have gotten a federally run exchange instead.

Idaho’s exchange currently is operating on millions in federal grant funding, but starting in 2016, it must become self-supporting, relying entirely on fees. By law, no state funds can be spent on it. Dowd said it’s not yet clear just how many Idahoans must enroll to make the exchange self-supporting, but said the latest numbers are “very, very encouraging that we are on the right trajectory and on the right path to have a financially sustainable exchange.”

Sen. Hill lauds Idaho insurance exchange

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, has a guest opinion in the Idaho Falls Post Register today lauding Idaho’s decision to establish a state health insurance exchange. Under the headline “Going our own way,” Hill writes, “The choice last year was never between a state-run exchange and no exchange at all. That option had been denied by the courts. It was a choice between state involvement and total federal control. Those states that ignored the law relinquished control to the federal government. Idaho refused to surrender its decision-making authority over health care issues.”

Hill writes, “While the residents of other states have been strapped by a 3.5 percent premium tax to fund the federal exchange, Idaho has kept fees at only 1.5 percent. Idaho's health insurance rates continue to be among the lowest in the country. While the federal exchange requires detailed personal information in order to access its exchange, Idaho allows persons to browse plans and check rates anonymously.” Click below for his full article.

Idaho insurance exchange goes live on the web with new URL

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.

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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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