Affordable Care Act

Health insurance premiums in Idaho will go up in 2018, between 6 and 81 percent depending on the plan you choose.  That's according to proposed increases to the price of your health care plan.

Each year, insurance companies operating in Idaho send their planned price hikes to the Department of Insurance. The proposed increases were released Monday for 2018.

The proposed average overall statewide rate increase is 38 percent. The average price for Bronze, Silver, and Gold plans are all going up, with Silver plans averaging a 50 percent increase.

Idaho Governor's Office

Idaho Governor Butch Otter announced Wednesday he has picked a new head of the state’s Health and Welfare Department.

Otter is appointing Russ Barron to head the agency. Barron is deputy director and a longtime administrator at Health and Welfare.

Otto Kitsinger / AP

U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador says his answer to a question on health care at a recent town hall in northern Idaho wasn't very elegant.

Labrador has received criticism for his comment Friday that no one has died because they didn't have access to health care — a claim disputed by medical experts because they counter that patients without health coverage often risk waiting until their conditions have advanced too far for effective treatment.

Evan Vucci / AP

President Donald Trump urged Senate Republicans on Sunday to "not let the American people down," as the contentious debate over overhauling the U.S. health care systems shifts to Congress' upper chamber, where a vote is potentially weeks, if not months, away.

Some senators have already voiced displeasure with the health care bill that cleared the House last week, with Republicans providing all the "yes" votes in the 217-213 count. They cited concerns about potential higher costs for older people and those with pre-existing conditions, along with cuts to Medicaid.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter’s 11th State of the State address Monday focused on a number of key issues in the state. But one area the governor spent little time discussing was what’s known as the Medicaid gap, which impacts an estimated 78,000 Idahoans.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

It was a refrain we heard over and over during President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign.

“Unless you get hit by a truck, you’re never going to be able to use it," Trump said at the second presidential debate. "It is a disastrous plan and it has to repealed and replaced.”

The Affordable Care Act is one of the bigger Obama administration policies on Trump's chopping block. In Idaho, this means the Democratic-led push to expand Medicaid to cover 78,000 low-income Idahoans is dead.

A key Idaho Republican lawmaker has announced a surprising change of course for the Idaho Legislature, saying he has scheduled the first-ever hearing on a Medicaid expansion bill.

Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, told the Lewiston Tribune that he will allow a hearing to take place on February 2.

Democratic Sen. Dan Schmidt of Moscow introduced the legislation as a personal bill earlier this session.

Butch Otter
Idaho Statesman

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced a new proposal Thursday that he says would help low income Idahoans get health care.

The Primary Care Access Program (PCAP) still needs to be approved by the Idaho Legislature. It is designed to help adults 19-64 who don’t have health insurance.

Otter says Idaho doesn’t want to expand Medicaid and PCAP will help the 78,000 people who fall through the cracks of the current system.

Michael Galkovsky / Flickr Creative Commons

The head of Idaho's state-run health insurance exchange says no matter what decision the U.S. Supreme Court made Thursday on the federal subsidies that are part of Obamacare, the state wouldn't have been affected.  

The court upheld the practice of giving subsidies to people buying health insurance in states that don’t have their own exchanges. Idaho is one of the 16 states that created exchanges.

Omar Bárcena / Flickr

Idaho's online insurance exchange needs to collect $9 million in revenue by the summer of 2017 or risk dipping into its limited reserves in order to stay in business.

The federal government stopped providing funding for state-based exchanges on Jan. 1. This means the 13 states currently operating their own exchange must find a way to become sustainable.

A.Currell / Flickr

As Idaho gets ready for the third year of using a state health exchange under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are still adapting to the new system. This month, those companies announced some proposed rate increases for insurance policies next year.

The Associated Press reported last week that Blue Cross of Idaho has asked for the most rate hikes.

“[That’s] simply because we offer more plan options for people,” says Josh Jordan, manager of Corporate Communications with Blue Cross of Idaho. He says every insurance carrier in the state asked for increases.

Tyler / Flickr Creative Commons

Officials with Idaho's health insurance exchange, Your Health Idaho, say 83,383 people enrolled for insurance between November 15-December 31. That number includes people who were already enrolled and renewed their coverage, as well as new insurance customers.

Your Health Idaho Executive Director Pat Kelly says the number of people signing on has had its ups and downs in the last two months, but he's pleased overall.

Medical, Health Care
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Your Health Idaho's executive director says nearly 74,000 Idahoans have selected a health insurance plan on the state-based exchange.

Pat Kelly told exchange board members Tuesday that the number fell somewhere mid-range of the exchange's projections.

However, Kelly did not say how many of those enrolled for the first time. He also didn't mention how many people had submitted an application but had not yet selected a health plan.

Last year, roughly 76,000 people signed up on Idaho's exchange.

medical stock, scale, healthcare
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho's employee health insurance plans are comparable to the federal government's most expensive option offered under the Affordable Care Act and better than what most private companies provide.

According to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts released Tuesday, Idaho covers 93 percent of all medical costs for state employees.

That compares to private Idaho employers, where plans generally cover 80 percent of medical costs.

medical stock, scale, healthcare
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Because the federal heath insurance exchange website has been plagued by troubles including outages, the head of Idaho's marketplace says the state is stepping up to make it easier for people to sign up for health insurance.

Amy Dowd leads Your Health Idaho, the state’s health insurance exchange. Until next year, Idaho is using the federal portal to sign up consumers online.

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