by Andrew Crisp
A 12-member panel appointed by Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter met today to "build the foundation" of future health care strategies, according to Bill Deal, panel chairman and Idaho Department of Insurance director.
Though the panel includes three Idaho lawmakers—Coeur d'Alene Republican Sen. John Goedde, Boise Republican Rep. Lynn Luker and Lewiston Democrat Rep. John Rusche—it is separate from the Legislature's health care task force that met on Monday, July 30.
"That meeting really set the scene for this panel," said Deal.
Otter asked two separate working groups to examine the effects that the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act could have on Idaho. The panel that met today includes outspoken critics of the ACA, including Idaho Freedom Foundation director Wayne Hoffman, as well as supporters, such as Rusche, who is also a Lewiston physician. The second panel, tasked with examining the possible expansion of Medicaid, will meet for the first time on Monday, Aug. 6.
Today's meeting began with a presentation led by Tom Donovan, deputy director of the Department of Insurance, including demographics on those with insurance and the types of polices already sold in Idaho.
Dialogue quickly turned to costs associated with an ACA requirement to implement a state health insurance exchange. States are required to set up what is akin to a marketplace for policies, or face imposition of a federally managed exchange.
Donovan said no costs had been projected for either a state-run exchange, a federal version or some sort of partnership.
"Nobody knows how much it could cost?" asked Hoffman. "There’s not even a ballpark of $50 million, $60 million?"
Deal conceded that an exchange could cost Idaho somewhere around $40 million, but his information was based on comparing estimates from neighboring states. Deal said, for example, Washington is projected to spend $100 million, and Oregon near $80 million.
"Basically, we have ballparks on costs," said Deal.
Department of Insurance Program Manager Penny Schwiebert mentioned a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to aid in the cost of setting up an exchange
"The final award that came down was $23 million," Donovan told the panel. "But none of that money was spent because it was not authorized during the [legislative] session."
Schwiebert said she anticipated more grant funding would be available in the near future.