BOISE – Idaho is on track to become the only Republican-dominated state to launch its own health insurance exchange when enrollment opens today.
The exchange is part of the Affordable Care Act, where officials are promising a smoother insurance shopping experience this year.
Here’s what to know beforehand.
What’s new this year: The exchange website Idahoans went to last year to select an insurance plan will look a little different. Idaho relied on $35 million of federal funding to build its own state-run exchange that goes live at 8 a.m. today.
The exchange can be found on yourhealthidaho.org.
Idahoans will have 198 health plans, or 52 more than last year, provided by seven carriers to choose from on the state-run exchange.
Premiums vary depending on age, tobacco use and location in the state. However, the statewide average for a 35-year-old nonsmoker – who is buying a second-least expensive plan – is $233.
What’s at stake: Idaho’s exchange is facing pressure to function just as well as the federal exchange when it first opened for enrollment last year.
While the federal exchange’s website experienced serious glitches when it first launched, it quickly outperformed other state exchanges in the following weeks. States such as Oregon have since chosen to rely on the federal government’s site because it was too costly and time-consuming to fix their own.
Idaho is one of a dozen states choosing to run its own.
A key indicator the site is a success will be its ability to handle surges of sign-ups during the enrollment period. Last year, Idaho gave residents six months to sign up for coverage. This year enrollment ends in three months on Feb. 15, 2015.
How many will sign up? Nearly 76,000 Idahoans signed up last year for coverage at healthcare.gov. However, Idaho exchange spokeswoman Jody Olson didn’t respond to questions from the Associated Press about how much the exchange board expects to see sign up this year.
Instead, she offered this response via email: “This year, Your Health Idaho is focused on ensuring all the individuals who are currently enrolled in a health insurance plan are renewed in their plan for 2015 … Our goal this year is to continue helping those in our state who are in search of health insurance coverage.”
Premium fees lower: Idaho’s health exchange board approved charging 1.5 percent on premiums to cover the site’s overhead costs. That’s lower than the federal 3.5 percent fee.
Penalty fees increase: Starting in 2015, those who don’t have health insurance may have to pay a slightly higher penalty than in 2014. Next year, the penalty is $325 per adult ($12.50 per child) or 2 percent of income, but the maximum penalty per family is $975. In 2016, it becomes $695 per adult, or 2.5 percent of income.
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