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Eye On Boise

Idaho exchange’s subsidies at risk under health care repeal

By KIMBERLEE KRUESI, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's health insurance exchange would lose $220 million in tax subsidies if President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is repealed, Your Health Idaho Director Pat Kelly said Wednesday.

"Depending on what the repeal would look like, that would be the cost to Idaho," said Kelly, during a presentation to the Idaho House Health & Welfare Committee.

Nearly 90 percent of the 95,000 Idahoans currently enrolled on the state-based exchange receive a tax subsidy. This means 82,650 Idahoans will be at risk of losing their tax credit — used to help cover the cost of their insurance premiums — if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without a replacement.

However, that number will likely increase because the exchange's enrollment period doesn't close until Jan. 31 and officials expect Your Health Idaho to have at least 100,000 enrollees in 2017.

Republicans in Congress are working to defund Obama's 2010 federal health law without having drafted a replacement. President-elect Donald Trump has promised that he has a new plan and that it will be less expensive than the current statute, though most of the details have not yet been released.

"We are prepared for change, we've proven to be nimble," Kelly said, pointing to the Idaho exchange's success at keeping costs low. "We feel we're ready for whatever comes our way."

State law prohibits Idaho lawmakers from allocating state taxpayer money to help pay to keep the exchange running. Instead, assessment fees are the only revenue the exchange has to survive. Exchange board members approved increasing the fee from 1.5 percent to 1.99 percent for 2016 to help cover the costs of the exchange. But unlike in other states, the assessment fee in Idaho only applies to plans offered on the exchange.

Unlike other state-based exchanges across the country, Idaho's version has been considered a success due to few technical problems, quick customer response times and low costs. Furthermore, the exchange has been heralded as a successful Idaho solution in a state where officials have struggled with finding ways to provide health insurance to Idaho's neediest.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said that it's imperative the public know what's at stake under a possible repeal of Obamacare.

"Without those subsidies, there is no exchange," Rubel said. "There is no replacement right now."

No bill has been introduced inside the Idaho Legislature to dismantle the state exchange since the legislative session kicked off two weeks ago, but similar proposals have been attempted in years past.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press

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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