Idaho exchange exceeds target for health insurance enrollment

BOISE – Idaho’s exchange signed up 76,061 Idahoans for health insurance plans in the open-enrollment period, nearly double the target, according to numbers released from YourHealthIdaho.

The federal government expected 40,000 Idahoans to sign up during the six-month open enrollment period. “It’s very exciting, very, very encouraging that we are on the right path,” said Amy Dowd, executive director of the exchange. “Idahoans are interested in getting insurance for themselves and their families.”

Idaho launched YourHealthIdaho.org at the urging of Gov. Butch Otter after two years of 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 wanted Idaho to steer clear of health care reform, even though failing to start a state insurance exchange would have meant the federal government would have run an exchange for the state instead.

Idaho’s exchange is operating on millions in federal grant funding, but starting in 2016 it must become self-supporting by relying on fees. By law, no state funds can be spent on it.

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 say 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.

Dowd said it’s not yet clear how many Idahoans must enroll to make the exchange self-supporting, but said the latest numbers are “encouraging that we are on the right trajectory and on the right path to have a financially sustainable exchange.”

Though the open-enrollment period is over, exchange officials said people who experience significant life changes, such as getting married, having a baby, adopting a child, changing employment, moving to a new state or losing a spouse or child, still can sign up. Also, members of Idaho’s five Native American tribes can enroll at any time of the year.

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