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State gears up for new healthcare insurance exchange

By Kaitlin Loukides
Published On: Apr 15 2013 07:59:05 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 16 2013 11:17:46 AM CDT

state gets ready to head toward state-based healthcare insurance exchange program

POCATELLO, Idaho -

With Idaho approaching a new state-based healthcare insurance program, many are already gearing-up for the change.

The former Health West executive director, Stephen Weeg, said although this has been the center of controversy among Idaho lawmakers, he believes state-based healthcare insurance is the healthier alternative for the state.

“I know from my work experience, that people who don't have health insurance live sicker, die younger, have problems with work performance and attendance because of absenteeism, so this is a great way to make Idaho a healthier state,” Weeg said.

Representatives from Blue Cross of Idaho say, under this new program, people can buy health insurance and get a tax credit from the government that would help them pay for that insurance.

“One very big difference is that people with different income levels will be able to get that help with that new kind of tax credit,” Blue Cross of Idaho Director of Corporate Communications Karen Early said over the phone.

This means subsidies will be based on income. So, for a family of four living under 400 percent of the poverty level, their income will be almost $18,000 which will allow them to receive a bigger amount to help cover the cost of the premium.

“And depending on your family size – obviously a family of four gets more subsidy than a family of two making the same amount of money,” Early said.

Weeg estimated about 250,000 Idahoans who currently do not have healthcare insurance, and said the new exchange plan will help cover between 70 to 80,000 of those people. The rest, he said, are still too poor to qualify for this exchange and would instead have to qualify for Medicaid expansion.

“It makes a difference when people have health insurance,” Weeg said. “People get their medicine, people get their healthcare, and when they don't, they delay. They put off and wait until things are too bad to get better.”

Early said as soon as this summer, people can start researching which healthcare plan works best for them, and on October 1, they can officially start shopping. She also said the most important point people need to understand is the only way to purchase this healthcare insurance is, in fact, online.

Weeg said his healthcare exchange board of directors will meet for the first time this upcoming week, and their main goal is to help design a system that is easy for everyone in Idaho to access. He people need to also understand how to get insurance and how to be subsidized, because through the exchange, the premiums are subsidized through an advanced payment tax credit.

He also said there will be a change in the way healthcare is delivered because up to this point, healthcare providers were paid based on quantity – the more you do, the more you get paid. However, this new system will pay doctors and other healthcare providers based on how well people are taken care of rather than how often they see their patients.

Weeg said the state has a reserve pool of $20 million to help the exchange get off the ground, which comes out to about two years of federal funding.

According to federal law, the board is mandated to establish an exchange plan by January 1, 2014.

Follow Kaitlin on Twitter: @KaitlinLoukides

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