BOISE - 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, nearly double the expected number.
The federal government’s target 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.”
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 Idahoans 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.”
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 outside the open period. Also, members of Idaho’s five Native American tribes can enroll at any time of the year.
For more information, call 1-855-YH-Idaho, or go to the exchange’s website at www.YourHealthIdaho.org.