Idaho legislators spike plan to allow non-ACA compliant insurance, but state officials report HHS is 'sympathetic'

Document titled, Affordable Care Act
State officials believe they have a "sympathetic" ear in Washington for their plan to expand non-ACA compliant plans. (Getty/Designer491)

A healthcare plan proposed by the governor of Idaho—which would expand short-term insurance plans in the state—was spiked in the state's legislature this week, but officials report that they have a sympathetic ear for the plan in Washington. 

Idaho lawmakers send bill back to committee 

bill that replicates an executive order from Gov. Butch Otter died in committee Tuesday, according to an article from the Associated Press. The move indicates that state lawmakers may not want to address gaps in Idaho's Medicaid program this year. 

About 78,000 residents are estimated to be in a group that makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid but are also ineligible for insurance subsidies. 

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Idaho officials unveiled the plan in late January, and it appears to be the first state to try offering plans that don't comply with Affordable Care Act requirements without first getting approval from the federal government. 

Blue Cross of Idaho announced it would be the first insurer to offer plans under the state's proposal, and has drawn written five proposals that are under review. 

Despite legislative setback, Idaho officials say HHS is 'sympathetic' to the cause 

Seema Verma
Seema Verma (CMS)

Idaho insurance officials met with officials from Department of Health and Human Services over the weekend, including Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, the Idaho Statesman reported

Dean Cameron, director of the state's Department of Insurance, told the newspaper that the meeting presented a "good opportunity" to outline Idaho's insurance struggles for federal officials. 

"I think Secretary Azar was sympathetic to the problems we're facing," Cameron said. "We talked about how the market is bifurcated, and that the existing market was headed for collapse unless we were able to find some way to attract the young and healthy back into the marketplace." 

Azar so far mum on Idaho's proposal 

Azar has not taken a public position on Idaho's plans, and did not say at Saturday's meeting if he would support the proposal moving forward, Cameron told The Hill. 

Azar said he "intends to follow the law," Cameron said. 

Though he has stayed mum on how his administration would handle the Idaho plan, HHS has issued a proposed rule that would expand the length of short-term plans to 12 months. Azar said the expansion would allow states more flexibility and more options for the uninsured. 

An HHS spokesperson told The Hill that Azar "expressed sympathy" for the challenges Idaho faces. 

If HHS allows it, Idaho's plan could spark a trend 

Experts predict that if the government allows Idaho to implement its plan, other states will follow suit, according to an article from The Washington Post. 

"It could be the tip of the spear," Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, told the newspaper. 

Idaho presents a fairly unique situation among states, as it formed its own ACA marketplace instead of relying on Healthcare.gov. Its exchange still includes five insurers, which provides more choice than in a number of other states, according to the article. 

Consumer advocates warn that expanding short-term plans could hurt the ACA exchanges, as it would lure younger and healthier enrollees out of the market and destabilize the risk pools, according to the article.