State of the State

Sen. Dean Cameron, right, talks with Rep. Maxine Bell before the State of the State address in Boise.

BOISE • For several months, Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, have worked on legislation that would establish a state-operated health insurance exchange.

Until now, their work has been kept under wraps as the ins and outs of developing a one-stop shop for health coverage have taken countless hours to navigate.

But the Mini-Cassia legislators say their work has paid off, and Wood is ready to submit a draft of the bill to be introduced in committee.

It’s unknown when the rest of Idaho’s lawmakers will get their first crack at the bill, but it’s sure to spark debate in the Capitol and beyond.

What It Is

A privately-run Internet marketplace with state oversight that allows individuals and small businesses to shop for and compare insurance plans.

Why They Made It

The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare,” requires states to establish an insurance exchange by January 2013. If individual states don’t comply, the federal government will impose its own exchange on those states.

The Cost

An estimated $5 million. State officials decided not to use a $20.3 million federal grant Idaho received to set up the exchange. The state plan is cheaper, Wood said, because this exchange would be much more stripped down than a federally compliant plan with all the bells and whistles.

Potential Problems

Wood freely admits that the insurance exchange doesn’t comply with federal requirements. For example, it doesn’t provide subsidies for individuals who fall within 133-400 percent of the federal poverty mark.

But, Cameron said, he and other legislators want to set up an exchange that works for Idaho. If the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a problem with parts of the exchange, they’ll have to identify the specifics, he said.

A number of Idaho GOP legislators have also taken the stand that that the state shouldn’t establish a change at all and bow to a federal mandate. Idaho is among the 27 states challenging the plan’s constitutionality in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cameron said Wood has taken out components of the bill that his House colleagues might find objectionable, but even then, the proposal will face opposition.

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