Jan. 29--Committee Will Take Up Insurance Bill
BOISE -- After court fights, a task force and resistance, Idaho has taken the first legislative steps to implement a health insurance exchange. Read more
BOISE -- Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's office will introduce legislation today to set up a state-based health insurance exchange through the Affordable Care Act.
In December, Otter announced approval of the insurance exchange, pending the approval in turn from the Legislature. During his Jan. 7 State of the State address, Otter said he would soon introduce legislation to set up the exchange.
That day has come, with a bill revealed during today's Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee meeting. Here are five things to watch for in Otter's bill:
Will it adhere to federal guidelines? A piece of legislation drafted last year -- a bill that was never introduced -- set up the bare bones for the online marketplace. Bill author Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, admitted the bill didn't meet all of the federal rules, but hoped a basic exchange would satisfy both the Idaho Legislature and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The governor's bill could take the same approach, or may follow the federal guidelines more closely.
Who will be able to buy insurance through the exchange? Some state exchanges allow businesses with 50 employees or more to shop the exchange, while others require 100 employees or more. So far, there's no indication of what the governor will propose.
What are the parameters for insurance companies to participate? By setting up its own exchange, Idaho has more control over the requirements for insurance plans offered through the marketplace.
Who will govern the exchange? States can also decide who governs the exchange's board -- and who makes those appointments. Some states split appointments between the governor and legislature or attorney general. Others, like Hawaii, take a different approach, leaving all appointments up to the governor.
Also to be determined: The number of people who serve on the board. Currently, states who have set up their own exchanges have boards ranging from five to 15 members.
How will the Senate committee -- and the rest of the Legislature -- react? Today's meeting is a print hearing, meaning sponsors are merely introducing the bill and the committee won't take public testimony. But if the bill passes the print hearing, the Commerce and Human Resources Committee will hold a full hearing, complete with public input, before voting. If it clears the committee, the bill has to pass both the House and Senate. Either body can add amendments to the bill. Individual lawmakers have already expressed concern with the idea of the state voluntarily participating in Obamacare, so the state-based exchange isn't a guarantee.
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