Idaho officials not ready to pull the plug on insurance plan

Think the feds threw cold water on the Otter administration’s plans to offer non-ACA compliant insurance plans?

The Idaho Department of Insurance disagrees.

Idaho officials are pushing back against interpretations of a letter questioning Idaho’s insurance plans, according to a joint statement released by Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little. 

“Contrary to news media interpretations, the letter from CMS Administrator Verma was not a rejection of our approach to providing more affordable health insurance options for the people of Idaho. Her letter made it clear that Idaho’s efforts to pursue innovative alternatives hold great promise, and we believe that Idaho’s plan aligns with the State’s responsibility for ‘substantially enforcing’ Obamacare,” the statement said.

The letter from the feds, sent Thursday afternoon by Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, isn’t a verdict, Cameron argues. Instead, the notice gives Idaho 30 days to respond to Verma’s concerns that the plans don’t fully meet Affordable Care Act requirements.

“We were anticipating a letter saying essentially what it says,” Cameron told Idaho Reports. “…All along, we said we’re pushing the boundary lines a little bit, and it’s appropriate for them to say ‘Your toes are across the line here.'”

The language Verma uses — “we have reason to believe that Idaho may not be substantially enforcing provisions of the PP ACA” — isn’t definitive, either, Cameron said.

Verma’s use of the phrase “substantially” meeting ACA requirements is also open to interpretation, he added, pointing to Idaho’s 260 insurance plans that fully meet ACA standards. Even the five plans that Blue Cross of Idaho introduced under the scheme are mostly compliant, he argued. (Those plans haven’t yet been approved by the Department of Insurance.)

Requests for comment from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services weren’t immediately returned.

Regardless of whether Otter and Cameron’s interpretation is right, they’re not going to end the conversation here. We’ll have more on this on Friday’s Idaho Reports.

Read full joint statement below.

 

“Contrary to news media interpretations, the letter from CMS Administrator Verma was not a rejection of our approach to providing more affordable health insurance options for the people of Idaho. Her letter made it clear that Idaho’s efforts to pursue innovative alternatives hold great promise, and we believe that Idaho’s plan aligns with the State’s responsibility for “substantially enforcing” Obamacare. In fact, we consider the letter an invitation from CMS to continue discussing the specifics of what can and cannot be included in state-based plans.  We will consider all possible options and then continue discussions with CMS and HHS on how best to achieve our shared goals of reducing the costs of coverage and stabilizing our health insurance market.”

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