Highlight on Idaho: Your Health Idaho is Ready to Roll, but Fear Remains Over Costs

“Your Health Idaho,” the state’s Health Insurance Exchange is readying to open this fall, and this time, with its own technology platform. Last year, more than 76,000 Idahoans used the Exhange to obtain health insurance coverage, making Your Health Idaho per capita, the third most popular Exchange in the country. Idahoans will be able to shop for health insurance plans on Your Health Idaho beginning November 15. They will have through February 15 to choose an insurance plan and apply for a tax credit to help lower monthly premium costs. With the new technology platform, expectations are even greater for this year, as Idaho will be the first state to transition off the federal platform.

New Platform

Your Health Idaho is using information from the current insurance carriers to create accounts for Idahoans who bought health insurance plans on the federal Exchange last year and make eligibility determinations for tax credits in 2015. The state plans to use its own eligibility determination system to calculate 2015 tax credits. In order to determine tax credits, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare will need to confirm the information provided by the carriers with each consumer who received a tax credit in 2014. Consumers will have a variety of ways to confirm their information is accurate, such as filling out a form over a secure website at www.YourHealthIdaho.org/renewals, working with an agent or broker, calling 1-855-YH-Idaho or filling out a form which was mailed to them.

Your Health Idaho was established by state law in 2013 to provide an online marketplace where Idaho families and small businesses can go to compare and purchase health insurance. The Health Insurance Exchange is governed by an 18-member Board authorized by the Idaho legislature to set the rules and regulations for implementing a state-based health insurance exchange. Your Health Idaho has a new Executive Director, Pat Kelly, who has been serving as the interim executive director since July.

Cost Concerns

Despite the positive atmosphere surrounding the success of Idaho’s transition, some are still wary of new costs they believe might be associated with insurance coverage requirements from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148). This is because, under the ACA, employees working 30 or more hours in 2015 will be eligible for full insurance benefits in 2016.

In late September, a south-central Idaho school district took proactive actions to avoid incurring these ACA-mandated costs and voted to cut hours for more than 150 workers. The Twin Falls school board cut weekly hours for teaching aids, food service employees and other non-professionals down to 27.5 hours from previous workweeks of 30 to 34 hours, thereby also cutting their pay by $535 to $2,100. Cuts were made after school administrators said the move was necessary to provide necessary funding for the classrooms. Other school districts in the area, however, have indicated that they have no intention of cutting hours and benefits for their part-time employees.