Against all odds, perhaps, Idaho’s health care exchange seems likely to be open for business on time, and prepared to run efficiently.
The health insurance exchange board meeting last week in Boise has selected Boston-based Public Consulting Group for its biggest contract, for professional services including information technology. According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the firm is charged with handling eligibility and enrollment, consumer assistance, plan management, Medicaid integration and more for the exchange.
In addition, the Idaho board has agreed to spend $200,000 though Aug. 1 for a Boise-based public relations firm, Gallatin Public Affairs, to develop an outreach campaign to help educate the roughly 200,000 residents who have no health insurance.
Amy Dowd, the exchange’s director, said last week that the emphasis will be on creating a functional site to allow individuals and small businesses to shop for insurance policies online with a minimum of confusion and an eye for affordability.
The objective is to provide a clean, clear and concise plan for users “from the day it goes live in just two months.”
Idaho is not alone.
According to John Miller of The Associated Press, states like Idaho that have chosen a state-based exchange rather than a model run by the federal government are going though a similar process. A key question: Whether insurance seekers qualify for federal subsidies or are eligible for Medicaid, depending on income. The Public Consulting Group will have to help with that decision. There also will be a website and customer support centers that will handle phone calls, email and the standard post, Dowd says. And we are sure to be flooded with information provided by nonprofits and the media.
Dowd is optimistic. “We do not have concerns about coordination between the exchange and health insurance plans, or Medicaid,” she says. “The Exchange, Department of Insurance, Department of Health and Welfare, agents, brokers and carriers are all working together.”
The one-year delay announced by President Obama for requiring employers with more than 50 employees to offer insurance has generally been greeted with relief. It’s evidence that the government intends to work with those affected by the health care plan, even as diehard critics continue to rail in vain for its repeal.
The Bloomberg News is saluting Idaho Gov. Butch Otter for agreeing to create Idaho’s state-based exchange: “Its design will reflect Idaho’s small government philosophy, providing a minimalist, streamlined approach, potentially offering a stark contrastwith the bells-and-whistles exchanges envisioned by neighboring Oregon and nearby Washington... The state expects two benefits. Its exchange is more likely to be up and running on time, and its low overhead costs will be passed on to insurers in the form of lower assessment fees. That may lead to lower premiums for people buying insurance.”
We will know more about the insurance exchange in six months or so. But at this point, it seems apparent it’s going to work — that is, it will enable all Idahoans to have affordable care and treatment for illness and injury. That’s what insurance is for.