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Idaho lawmakers want health exchange contract canceled

TUESDAY, OCT. 22, 2013

BOISE – Two state lawmakers called Monday for cancellation of a nearly $375,000 no-bid contract awarded to one of the Your Health Idaho insurance exchange’s own board members.

Republicans Sen. Jim Rice, of Caldwell, and Rep. Kelley Packer, of McCammon, both of whom sit on the board, said the exchange’s $180-per-hour contract with Frank Chan was overpriced, inappropriate and not in taxpayers’ best interests.

The now-18-member board – Chan resigned last Wednesday, when he was awarded the deal by exchange Director Amy Dowd – is meeting today at 11 a.m. in Boise.

There, Rice and Packer say they’ll seek to discard the contract with Chan, who earns only $95 per hour for work his computer company performs separately for two state agencies, the Department of Insurance and the Department of Health and Welfare.

“When somebody is going behind everyone’s back, negotiating a contract for themselves at $180 an hour when they’ve got current contracts with the state at $95, I don’t think that’s even ethical,” Rice said. “It’s not in the interest of the citizens of Idaho and it’s a violation of the fiduciary obligation of a member of the board.”

The Your Health Idaho exchange, created under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, allows people to shop for insurance and learn if they qualify for federal subsidies.

Chan, who didn’t return a phone call, had led the Your Health Idaho board’s technology committee before Dowd selected him to oversee the exchange’s technology vendors. During the next year, the vendors are slated to replace the glitch-plagued federal enrollment system with state-based software.

The money for that would come from a $50 million taxpayer-funded grant that Idaho is now seeking from the federal government.

Dowd consulted with exchange Chairman Stephen Weeg on the decision to hire Chan but not with the rest of the board.

She contends that it’s within her authority to award contracts.

However, the exchange since May has been operating under only a “draft” procurement policy that doesn’t specify just when competitive bidding is required. The board had initially planned to finalize the procurement policy, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Dowd, who didn’t comment Monday, has said it was necessary to hire Chan without publicly advertising the contract or seeking alternative bids because Idaho is under tight deadlines to complete its exchange.

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