Idaho Senate panel OKs state health insurance exchange

An Idaho Senate panel has approved the House-passed state-based health insurance exchange, setting the stage for a final Senate vote before the measure goes to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk.

The Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee voted 8-1 Tuesday for the measure, which Otter favors to satisfy a provision of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.  The governor’s plan would use about $30 million in federal grants to build Idaho’s own insurance exchange.

Under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, all states must have an insurance exchange by Jan. 1. They can develop their own, or have the federal version put in place.

Otter and his allies have said Idaho will have the most control and least federal interference with its own online marketplace to sell insurance and sort out subsidies to individuals and small businesses.

Insurers including Blue Cross of Idaho and Regence Blue Shield lobbied for a state exchange, for fear the federal alternative would put them at a disadvantage.

The bill advanced Tuesday differs from a previous, Senate-passed version. House additions include competitive-bidding requirements, gun-rights protections and the naming of 3 lawmakers to the exchange’s now 19-member board, two from the majority party, one from the minority.  (AP)

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