The Idaho Department of Insurance (DOI) has spent $75,000 in federal grant money for planning related to last year's federal health care reform plan. Insurance Director Bill Deal said that spending could give Idaho more flexibility down the road, even if the reform plan is changed or thrown out by the courts.
“What we're doing now is nothing but planning,” Deal said. “We just want to be prepared.” His department previously reported spending $24,300 through the end of December.
The department currently has a $1 million federal grant for researching health insurance exchange, which would allow citizens to easily compare the costs and coverage options of different health insurance programs. The DOI also has a $1 million grant to review health insurance premium rates and how they are reported. The federal grant money would mean hiring three additional insurance and policy analysts.
The DOI and the Department of Health and Welfare have received federal grants under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010. That plan has come under fire from some elected officials. Idaho was successful in the first round of a multi-state lawsuit against the PPACA, when a Florida judge ruled it was unconstitutional. An Idaho House committee is also considering legislation that would prevent the state from carrying out any part of the federal law.
If the PPACA remains the law of the land, Idaho would need to act quickly to follow federal guidelines. “If the health care reform prevails, come 2013, the states must provide a plan to [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] to show that they have an exchange plan in place. If the states don't, the federal government will probably by law come in and put an exchange in place,” Deal told lawmakers on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Wednesday. “That's the tightrope that we're walking.”
Idaho would be better off with a state-run health insurance exchange, Deal said, because state regulators would know the system better than outside federal regulators. “It's not really a one-size-fits-all thing,” Deal said.
If the PPACA unravels, Deal said Idaho might want to consider running an insurance exchange anyway. Utah already runs an exchange. “It would provide transparency for Idaho citizens,” Deal said.
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