Printed on: January 10, 2013

Deadlines tight for insurance exchange faces

By Melissa Davlin
Twin Falls Times-News

BOISE -- The Idaho Legislature faces tough decisions in the next three months, and one of those may need to come sooner rather than later.

Earlier this month, Idaho's health insurance exchange plan received conditional approval from Health and Human Services. But the state is facing tight deadlines from the federal government to keep that approval.

Those include a Feb. 1 deadline to develop a revised timeline for setting up the exchange, and a Feb. 15 deadline for information technology and project management vendor selection awards.

Tricia Carney, public information officer for the Idaho Department of Insurance, said it's the department's understanding that the Legislature needs to make a decision on the exchange before the department can act on vendor awards.

Will that happen before the deadline?

"We really couldn't speculate on that," Carney said. "That's up to the Legislature to be able to say whether that happens or not."

In December, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter announced his support for establishing a state-based insurance exchange through the Affordable Care Act rather than allowing the federal government to set one up for Idaho.

The catch: The exchange would need the Legislature's approval. During his State of the State address Monday, Otter renewed his call for a state-based exchange and said he soon would provide legislation to set up the program.

At a Monday news conference, when asked if he thought the exchange would be ready before the deadline, he said, "Yes." 

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said both he and the governor understood the urgency of making a decision soon. 

"(Otter) indicated that he's going to have some proposed legislation to us right away," Hill said.

That could be as soon as next week, he said. 

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said he's aware of the deadline but didn't offer an answer when asked if he thought legislation would happen before then. Otter press secretary Jon Hanian confirmed that the governor's office would have legislation soon, though he couldn't say when. 

Extra insight

Copies of the correspondence between Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on Idaho's state-based exchange: