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State officials hope to make 'state-based' insurance plans available by end of April

State officials hope to make 'state-based' insurance plans available by end of April

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TWIN FALLS — State officials say they hope to make “state-based” health insurance plans available to Idahoans by the end of April — if they’re able to come to an agreement with the federal government by that time.

An executive order aimed at letting insurance companies create new health care plans that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act hit a stumbling block earlier this month when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed the state that the plans may be in violation of the law.

A “very fruitful” visit to Washington, D.C. last week resulted in a clearer understanding on both sides, Lt. Gov. Brad Little told the Times-News during a meeting with the editorial board Monday. Little, state Insurance Director Dean Cameron and U.S. Sen. Jim Risch met with White House advisers and CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

“My expectation for that meeting was not very high,” Little said. “And it substantially beat expectations.”

Initially, the state had hoped to make plans available by Apr. 1, Little said. Now, as Cameron enters negotiations with the federal government, the goal is the end of next month.

“We’re firmly convinced that if the people from the White House in the room get to the president...we’ll be in good shape,” Little said.

Whether the two sides are able to reach an agreement will depend on if and when Idaho’s plan is found to “substantially enforce” the law.

Little didn’t rule out the possibility of the state taking legal action over the definition of “substantially,” but said he would prefer to avoid a lawsuit if possible.

“It’s always better if you negotiate these things than it is if you get it into court,” Little said. “I’d rather just sit down and say, it is what it is.”

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