Blue Cross of Idaho has become the first insurer to respond to the state’s controversial executive order that encourages the sale of health plans that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act.
The move, which the nonprofit insurer announced Wednesday, could present an early test for new Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, as he is charged with upholding the healthcare law that the new “Freedom Blue” plans defy. Experts have also predicted that legal challenges are likely.
But to Charlene Maher, president and CEO of Blue Cross of Idaho, the decision to offer a new class of individual market policies is simply about meeting consumer demand.
“What Idahoans want is a stable, functional market,” she said in a statement, adding that the current individual marketplace “is not affordable for middle-class families.”
The Freedom Blue plans, on the other hand, “bring more choices and lower prices to consumers,” she said.
The new plans will indeed offer premiums that are lower than ACA-compliant health plans for some, but that comes at the price of offering skimpier coverage, according to Kaiser Health News.
For example, the plans would charge the least healthy consumers 50% more than their healthy counterparts, which violates the ACA’s rules. In addition, they cap total medical care coverage at $1 million annually, and one of the five new plans doesn’t offer maternity coverage.
Meanwhile, as Idaho tries to skirt the ACA, state and federal GOP officials are showing interest in measures that would shore up the law’s marketplaces and lower premiums, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In Wisconsin, for example, Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a $200 million reinsurance program—though he is also framing it as a way to mitigate the ACA’s failures. And in the House, some Republicans are pushing legislation that would provide national reinsurance funding.
Certain conservatives, however, are not on board with that movement. Andy Roth, vice president of government affairs at the Club for Growth, told the WSJ that Republicans “shouldn’t demand repeal for eight years and then suddenly decide it’s wise to bail out the very program they claim to detest.”