AARP Says Idaho Health Insurance Exchange Fight puts Politics before People

Demise of voter supported, AARP-backed effort to create state-based exchange is bad news for Idahoans buckling under health care costs

BOISE, Idaho, March 8, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- State businesses, health insurance companies, and consumer and advocacy groups all lined up in support of Idaho lawmakers creating a state-based health care exchange this legislative session with high hopes.  Those hopes have now been dashed, and the effort likely doomed.  AARP Idaho says it's a move that has put politics before people and that's bad news for the increasing number of Idahoans reporting difficulty paying for their health insurance.

"There seems to be a real disconnect on this issue between what Idaho voters wanted and needed and its fate at the statehouse this session," said Angela Cortez, interim State Director for AARP in Idaho.  "Idahoans are having a hard time paying for their health insurance and a state-based, consumer centered health care marketplace would have helped them find affordable options."

The exchange would set up an insurance marketplace to help individuals and small businesses shop for and access more affordable health insurance plans, allowing them to get the same deal large businesses do when it comes to health insurance costs.  Setting up a state-based health care exchange would ensure Idaho is at the table when it comes to implementation and oversight, allowing for a greater state involvement to help residents.

With nearly 25 percent of adult Idahoans lacking insurance, a recent AARP Idaho survey found that even those who do have coverage are struggling. According to the survey:

  • Over half of registered voters, 30-64, in Idaho who have health insurance are reporting difficulty affording it.
  • Nearly 70 percent worry about being able to afford the health care services they think they'll need. 
  • Due to the high cost of health care: 38.6 percent have scheduled fewer checkups with their doctor; 40.4 percent have delayed seeing a doctor or nurse when not feeling well; and 22.1 percent have delayed filling a prescription.

About 90 percent say the needs of consumers and small businesses should be put before those of health insurance companies. (Full survey:

"Unfortunately, the real losers in all of this are Idahoans buckling under current insurance premiums and living in fear of costs going up," Cortez said. "Not tackling the exchange this year was a real missed opportunity for state lawmakers."  

The survey also found creating a health exchange has vast support across all political parties, with the majority of Republican (77 percent support) and conservative (72 percent support) voters behind the idea. Among Democrats, 78 percent back the idea, while 73 percent of Independents do. 

AARP is Idaho's largest membership organization with over 180,000 members.
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