Idaho legislators debate health insurance exchange issues as new legislative session begins

Idaho Health InsuranceThe Idaho Legislature convened earlier this month for its latest legislative session and one of the main topics of discussion is whether the state will build a health insurance exchange program. The state has received a $20 million federal grant to help build the exchange, but legislators have yet to accept the funds as they still remain divided on the issue. Idaho is one of 22 states that have not reached a conclusion on what to do about an insurance exchange yet.

Health insurance exchanges are part of the Affordable Care Act, which was passed into law in 2010. The exchanges are meant to bring more competition to a state’s insurance market, as it will allow consumers to search and procure affordable insurance policies. All insurers doing business in a state with an exchange are required to participate in the program, making it possible for consumers to find a greater variety of insurance coverage. Some states have shown resistance to the establishment of an exchange program because they do not understand the full effects it will have on their individual insurance industry.

The state has until the end of the year to draft comprehensive plans on how it will build its exchange. If it cannot meet this deadline, the federal government will take steps to get the ball rolling and look to recover the grants it had awarded the state. Idaho faces another deadline in 2014, one that requires the state’s insurance exchange to be fully operational. If this deadline is not met, the federal government will build an exchange in the state itself and the Idaho Legislature will have no authority over the program.

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