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Eye On Boise

Lawmakers review latest version of health insurance exchange bill

The Idaho Legislature's Health Care Task Force got a detailed rundown this morning from Bill Deal, director of the Idaho Department of Insurance, on the latest draft of legislation to establish a health insurance exchange in Idaho. Deal said the latest draft, from Dec. 9, has been developed by Gov. Butch Otter's health care council, a drafting committee from the Department of Insurance, and "innumerable recommendations that have come from people interested, and many of those have been incorporated." The department also has been holding public meetings around the state on the plan; a recent one in Idaho Falls drew more than 60 people.

The plan envisions a resource for Idaho purchasers of individual and small employer health benefit plans, that would include listings of all the qualified plans available along with their costs and benefits, and uncompensated "navigators," who could be anyone from chambers of commerce to unions, who could help purchasers sort through the various plans. The exchange would be overseen by a 13-member board, including three representatives of health insurance companies, two of insurance agents or "producers," one of individual consumers, and three representing various sizes of small employers in Idaho. The governor would appoint the board. An advisory panel of providers, including physicians, pharmacists and so forth, would advise the board, and the board would designate at least one of its members as a liaison to the provider advisory committee.

Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said, "I think the advisory committee is a good approach." But, he said, "I have had feedback from several people that the governance board seems to be very heavy with the insurance industry ... (and) light on purchaser or citizen input." Deal said the board will be an administrative body, and it'll be important for members to have management experience and know a lot about information technology, since the whole exchange will be tied to an online portal. The board, he said, won't be reviewing the financial stability or market conduct of insurance providers - that duty will remain where it is now, with the Department of Insurance.

The Health Care Task Force likely will meet again, possibly the first week of the legislative session, to review the final version of the legislation.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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