Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has been told he should quickly enact a nonprofit, state-based insurance exchange under President Obama’s health care overhaul.
Friday’s recommendation emerged from a panel created by Otter to advise him on Idaho’s options after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the disputed law.
Under Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states can establish online marketplaces for uninsured individuals and small businesses to compare and shop for insurance products. Alternatively, they can partner with the federal government – or let an exchange be run from Washington, D.C.
Some who voted with the panel’s 10-2 majority argued a state-based exchange helps Idaho maintain control of its insurance market and develop products that meet individual and small-business needs while still keeping costs in check.
Otter can’t wait too long if he accepts the recommendation, since there’s a looming Nov. 16 deadline for states to notify the federal government of their intentions. Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said after the vote that the governor could act via executive order, but he declined to detail Otter’s plans.
Insurers such as Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence Blue Shield and PacificSource have spent tens of thousands or more on lobbying to promote a state exchange.
There have been conflicting opinions of whether Idaho even has time to complete a state-designed exchange by Jan. 1, 2014, as required by the federal law. On Oct. 9, for instance, experts hired by the state said Idaho’s only option was to partner with the federal government on a hybrid exchange, as time had run out on going it alone.
On Friday, however, another consultant, Leavitt Partners of Utah, said Idaho still had time to build a state-based exchange, using some $30 million in aid from the federal government.
A separate, Otter-appointed panel considering another provision of the health care overhaul – whether Idaho should expand its Medicaid program to cover more low-income people – is due to meet again on Nov. 9. (AP)