Dean Cameron mug

Cameron

Idaho officials are still negotiating with the federal government to allow the sale of cheaper health insurance plans in the state that don’t meet all of the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.

“We are still in discussions with (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services),” state Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron said Tuesday. “We had eight issues they were concerned with. We’re essentially down to one. Our goal is to get something done in the next few weeks. It may take us till the end of the year, but I hope not.”

Cameron wouldn’t say much about the discussions or the sticking points, citing the ongoing negotiations. He did say that the plans would likely cover the 10 “essential benefits” that all health insurance plans are required to cover under the ACA. Cameron said he expects the plans to be 30 to 50 percent cheaper than insurance plans that are available now.

“They will be closer toward the ACA plans than what we had initially envisioned, but there still will be some differences,” he said.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed an executive order in January to allow for the sale of cheaper non-ACA compliant plans, and he and Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who is running for governor, toured the state to promote the idea. The hope, they said at the time, was that these cheaper plans would induce younger and healthier people who have dropped their insurance due to rising costs to reenter the market. CMS Administrator Seema Verma sent state officials a letter in March saying the plan as proposed would be illegal and could lead to federal regulators taking action against the state to enforce the ACA.

If the state reaches an agreement with CMS, Cameron said the next step would be for his department to issue revised guidance for insurers, and hopefully one or more carriers would be interested in offering the plans. Blue Cross of Idaho had been interested in offering non-ACA compliant plans under the original guidance earlier this year.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.