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Idaho Health Exchange 2.0 Runs Smoothly on Day One; Washington Shuts Down

In the Boise offices of Your Health Idaho, officials called the Nov. 15 opening day of the Idaho-created exchange "absolutely flawless,"

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UPDATE: November 16, 2014 By most accounts, things went smoothly Saturday as Idaho launched its own version of an online insurance marketplace—a linchpin of the Affordable Care Act. Things in Washington state? Not so much.

In the Boise offices of Your Health Idaho, officials called the Nov. 15 opening day of the Idaho-created exchange "absolutely flawless," according to the Associated Press

As many as 200 unique combinations from nine different carriers are offered in this year's exchange. Seven carriers that sold plans in 2014 will continue to sell plans through the exchange, including BEST Life and Health Insurance Company, Blue Cross of Idaho, BridgeSpan Health Company, Delta Dental of Idaho, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, PacificSource Health Plans and SelectHealth, Inc. They're joined this year by Mountain Health Co-Op and Willamette Dental. 

Every health insurance plan sold on Your Health Idaho must cover a certain set of services known as essential health benefits. These include hospitalization, emergency services, prescription drugs, preventative and wellness care, pediatric care, maternity care, ambulatory patient services, mental health and substance abuse disorder services, rehabilitative care and laboratory services

No word yet on how many people accessed or secured coverage on the Idaho exchange Saturday. Officials said they'll be providing monthly numbers through the process, which wraps up Feb. 15.

Meanwhile, it was nothing but headaches over in Washington state, where officials had to shut down their exchange two-and-a-half hours after it launched. Washington officials say tax credits weren't calculating properly and they would need to shut down until they could fix the bug.

In spite of the problem, Washington officials still chose to be rosy.

"The site worked so much better than last year," said spokesman Michael Marchand.

ORIGINAL STORY: November 15, 2014

Saturday marked Idaho's second go-around with the online health insurance exchange marketplace, but it was also a new beginning. The Nov. 15 opening of the 2015 window to secure health care coverage isn't really a re-launch; it's the beginning of Idaho's own online exchange as Your Health Idaho officials say goodbye to the federal website, which experienced so many stops-and-starts during the initial sign-up.

Idaho officials say there are 200 different combinations of health care and dental care plans, provided by nine insurance carriers available on the exchange. While Your Health Idaho officials say they're not exactly sure how many Gem State residents will secure a policy this year, they point to the nearly 80,000 residents who enrolled during last year's event.

The Idaho-based exchange launched early this morning, announcing "2015 Open Enrollment Has Started."

Your Health Idaho officials say consumers should feel free to browse through this year's choices anonymously. Simply put, you can shop without buying. When you're ready to secure coverage, that's when you'll be prompted for particulars.

The big question for many Idahoans remains: "What happens if I don't get insurance?"

For those Idahoans who haven't secured coverage through an employer or private plan—through the insurance exchange or any other means—the penalty has moved up to $325 per adult and $162.50 per child, maxing out at $975 per family, or 2 percent of household income, whichever is higher.

To get a tax credit to help reduce monthly premium costs, Idahoans must file taxes, have incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, not be eligible for federal health care programs like Medicaid or Medicare, and not have access to affordable health insurance through their employers. The income levels for 100 to 400 percent of federal poverty level are between $11,670 to $45,680 for individuals or between $23,850 to $95,400 for a family of four. 

This year's exchange has a new health insurer, Mountain Health CO-OP, joining the marketplace. CO-OPs—or Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans—are new nonprofit organizations that have emerged since the creation of the Affordable Care Act.

The other carriers include: BEST Life and Health Insurance Company, Blue Cross of Idaho, BridgeSpan Health Company, Delta Dental of Idaho, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, PacificSource Health Plans, SelectHealth and Willamette Dental.


But don't expect as much flexibility this year when it comes to deadlines. They're open for business, but they insist that you have until Feb. 15 to enroll—after that, only major life changes, like job changes, marital status, etc., will give you an exemption to change your policy. At least until next year.