Affordable Care Act

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Idaho Health Exchange 2.0 Runs Smoothly on Day One; But Washington Shuts Down Insurance Site After Major Bug

Posted By on Sun, Nov 16, 2014 at 11:00 AM

By most accounts, things went smoothly Saturday as Idaho launched its own version of an online insurance marketplace—a linchpin of the Affordable Care Act. Things in Washington state? Not so much.

In the Boise offices of Your Health Idaho, officials called the Nov. 15 opening day of the Idaho-created exchange "absolutely flawless," according to the Associated Press

As many as 200 unique combinations from nine different carriers are offered in this year's exchange. Seven carriers that sold plans in 2014 will continue to sell plans through the exchange, including BEST Life and Health Insurance Company, Blue Cross of Idaho, BridgeSpan Health Company, Delta Dental of Idaho, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, PacificSource Health Plans and SelectHealth, Inc. They're joined this year by Mountain Health Co-Op and Willamette Dental. 

Every health insurance plan sold on Your Health Idaho must cover a certain set of services known as essential health benefits. These include hospitalization, emergency services, prescription drugs, preventative and wellness care, pediatric care, maternity care, ambulatory patient services, mental health and substance abuse disorder services, rehabilitative care and laboratory services

No word yet on how many people accessed or secured coverage on the Idaho exchange Saturday. Officials said they'll be providing monthly numbers through the process, which wraps up Feb. 15.

Meanwhile, it was nothing but headaches over in Washington state, where officials had to shut down their exchange two-and-a-half hours after it launched. Washington officials say tax credits weren't calculating properly and they would need to shut down until they could fix the bug.

In spite of the problem, Washington officials still chose to be rosy.

"The site worked so much better than last year," said spokesman Michael Marchand.
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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Your Health Idaho Launches 2015 Enrollment

Posted By on Sat, Nov 15, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Saturday marks Idaho's second go-around with the online health insurance exchange marketplace, but it's also a new beginning. The Nov. 15 opening of the 2015 window to secure health care coverage isn't really a re-launch; it's the beginning of Idaho's own online exchange as Your Health Idaho officials say goodbye to the federal website, which experienced so many stops-and-starts during the initial sign-up.

Idaho officials say there are 200 different combinations of health care and dental care plans, provided by nine insurance carriers available on the exchange. While Your Health Idaho officials say they're not exactly sure how many Gem State residents will secure a policy this year, they point to the nearly 80,000 residents who enrolled during last year's event.

The Idaho-based exchange launched early this morning, announcing "2015 Open Enrollment Has Started."

Your Health Idaho officials say consumers should feel free to browse through this year's choices anonymously. Simply put, you can shop without buying. When you're ready to secure coverage, that's when you'll be prompted for particulars.

The big question for many Idahoans remains: "What happens if I don't get insurance?"

For those Idahoans who haven't secured coverage through an employer or private plan—through the insurance exchange or any other means—the penalty has moved up to $325 per adult and $162.50 per child, maxing out at $975 per family, or 2 percent of household income, whichever is higher.

To get a tax credit to help reduce monthly premium costs, Idahoans must file taxes, have incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, not be eligible for federal health care programs like Medicaid or Medicare, and not have access to affordable health insurance through their employers. The income levels for 100 to 400 percent of federal poverty level are between $11,670 to $45,680 for individuals or between $23,850 to $95,400 for a family of four. 

This year's exchange has a new health insurer, Mountain Health CO-OP, joining the marketplace. CO-OPs—or Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans—are new nonprofit organizations that have emerged since the creation of the Affordable Care Act.

The other carriers include: BEST Life and Health Insurance Company, Blue Cross of Idaho, BridgeSpan Health Company, Delta Dental of Idaho, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, PacificSource Health Plans, SelectHealth and Willamette Dental.


But don't expect as much flexibility this year when it comes to deadlines. They're open for business today, but they insist that you have until Feb. 15 to enroll—after that, only major life changes, like job changes, marital status, etc., will give you an exemption to change your policy. At least until next year.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Two Top Executives Leaving Idaho Health Exchange

Posted By on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 at 10:01 AM

When Boise Weekly sat down with Amy Dowd, executive director of Your Health Idaho, in November 2013, controversy over the health care exchange had reached a fever pitch. Yet the woman tasked with overseeing Idaho's version of the online health insurance marketplace said she was in the for the long haul.

"This is a marathon, not a sprint," Dowd told BW.

That was then.

Late last week, Dowd took another job, as CEO of New Mexico's health insurance exchange.

Additionally, the Your Health Idaho board announced that Alberto Gonzalez, who oversaw much of the operations of the Idaho exchange, including its call center, announced late last week that he was leaving to join a private consulting firm.

BW spoke with Gonzalez on a number of occasions over the years, including this past February, when calls were starting to stream into the Idaho phone bank.

"A lot of families have come to us and said, 'You know, we really couldn't afford insurance before.' But now they're finding affordable coverage," Gonzalez told BW in February.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Health Insurance Co-op Will Join Insurance Exchange This Fall

Posted By on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 9:09 AM

A Montana-based insurance cooperative that received more than $20 million in low- or no-interest federal loans in 2013 in preparation for its expansion into Idaho has officially been given a clean bill of health to begin offering coverage through the Idaho health insurance exchange beginning this fall.

Mountain Health CO-OP has opened up an Idaho office in Eagle and has now filed its products and rates for review with the Idaho Department of Insurance in preparation for the next open enrollment period, which will begin Nov. 15.

The private, nonprofit co-op says it hopes to sign up as many as 10,000 Idahoans in its first year of business in the Gem State. It currently has more than 12,000 members in Montana, representing nearly half of all Montanans who bought insurance through that state's exchange earlier this year.

"Any profits we make go back to our members in better coverage, lower prices and better care," said Mountain Health CO-OP CEO Jerry Dworak. "We're a true co-op, and our members are in charge."


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Monday, April 28, 2014

Your Health Idaho: 76,000 Idahoans Signed Up For Coverage

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Nearly a month after the end of the first open enrollment for health insurance through the Your Health Idaho portal, officials at Idaho's exchange announced today that more than 76,000 Idahoans have signed up for coverage.

YHI officials said that the Congressional Budget Office had targeted a goal of 40,000 Idahoans to select a health insurance plan through the exchange during the first enrollment period.

Even though the first open enrollment wrapped at the end of March, special exceptions can be made for Idahoans who get married, have a baby, adopt a child, change their employment, experience the death of a spouse or child, or move to another state. They'll be able to sign up for coverage at any time. Additionally, members of Idaho's five Native American tribes are able to sign up for health insurance at any time during the year.


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Friday, April 4, 2014

Your Health Idaho: Deadline to Finalize Health Plan is April 15

Posted By on Fri, Apr 4, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Your Health Idaho announced Friday that those Idahoans who had begun, but not yet completed, applications to secure coverage through the online health insurance exchange will have until April 15 to complete the process.

"We want everyone who has started an application to finish," said Jody Olson, communications director for Your Health Idaho. "The clock is ticking."

March 31 was the deadline for Americans to secure insurance plans through the online marketplace, but feds said tens of thousands of Americans were still caught in virtual "waiting rooms" as a flood of would-be applicants waited until the final day.

For those people who didn't start their application before the end of March, they'll need to wait until the next open enrollment period, which starts Nov. 15. But for anyone who gets married, has a baby, adopts a child, moves to another state, changes employment or experiences the death of a spouse or child, they'll be able to sign up or change their existing health insurance plan outside of the open enrollment.

"We feel like we were able to reach a lot of Idahoans in the past six months but this is a complicated issue and we know it will take a lot more time to help Idahoans understand Your Health Idaho and what it could mean for them and their family," said Olson.


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Monday, March 31, 2014

Thousands in Exchange 'Waiting Room' on Final Day of 2014 Open Enrollment

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 9:09 AM

Thousands of visitors had already been put into virtual waiting rooms early today, to ease the crush of visitors to HealthCare.gov on this, the final day of open enrollment to secure health insurance via the online Obamacare exchange. But facilitators are doing everything they can to turn those "visitors" into "enrolees."

But the website is finishing its first open enrollment period much like it began last fall—with technical problems. At one point, early today, visitors to HealthCare.gov were told that the system "was down for maintenance" and to "please try again later." Officials pushed back, saying the website was typically down for maintenance during the early morning hours, but because of some technical problems, that down-time was extended an additional three hours.

Meanwhile, the White House says interest was "surging" as the deadline neared, with nearly 2 million visitors this past weekend.

And for those who have begun, but not completed, the process of enrollment, there's good news. HealthCare.gov or a call center representative will be able to continue the process after tonight's deadline passes.

President Barack Obama said March 27 that more than 6 million people had enrolled through federal or state health exchanges, a goal projected by the Congressional Budget Office to ensure the system is sustainable.


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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Idaho Health Insurance Exchange Numbers Jump 33 Percent

Posted By on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 at 10:09 AM

With just a few weeks left before the window closes on the opportunity to secure health care coverage through the online exchange, Your Health Idaho released new numbers late Tuesday afternoon, indicating that nearly 44,000 Idahoans had selected a health insurance plan through the marketplace—a 33 percent increase from one month ago.

More importantly, officials said Idahoans in all age groups were securing policies through Idaho's state-based exchange. Twenty-six percent of those who have purchased through the exchange are between the ages of 18 and 34, a "typically healthy demographic that is key to the sustainability of Your Health Idaho," according to exchange officials.

But Your Health Idaho officials stressed that there were still approximately 30,000 Idahoans who had started the application process but have not yet selected a plan.

"The time will fly by in the blink of an eye," said Alberto Gonzalez, Your Health Idaho operations project manager, when BW visited the exchange call center in February. "As the deadline nears, this is a call to action, and time is almost up."


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Friday, February 14, 2014

Latinos Dramatically Lacking From Health Insurance Exchange Rolls

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 9:28 AM

While federal and state officials continue to pore over the latest numbers of Americans who have enrolled in a health insurance plan through online exchanges, this morning's New York Times reports that many states are struggling to add Latinos to the health rolls.

The Times reports that enrollment problems are playing out in a number of states, especially in California, where enrollment of Latinos—who make up nearly 50 percent of the population—has fallen strikingly below the hopes of proponents of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, a number of states are rushing to expand marketing efforts and hiring additional Spanish-speaking staff, hoping to increase their Latino enrollments by March 31, when 2014 open enrollment ends.

One of the biggest problems, the Times reports, is that among immigrants there is a tangible fear of being deported. Although immigrants living in the U.S. illegally are prohibited from buying coverage on the state and federal exchanges, their American-born children are eligible for federal subsidies or Medicaid. But immigrant advocates say parents still fear their children could be deported if they applied for health coverage through the exchange.

Even those immigrants living in the U.S. legally have expressed fear that if they receive a subsidy through the health exchange, that might jeopardize their chance of permanent citizenship, according to the Times.


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Thursday, February 13, 2014

91 Percent of Idaho Health Exchange Shoppers Have Received Financial Aid

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 9:14 AM

With approximately five weeks left before the 2014 cut-off for Americans to secure health care coverage via online exchanges, the number of Gem State residents who have selected a plan through the Your Health Idaho exchange has increased by 65 percent from only a month ago.

The latest data released from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that Idaho is second per capita in the nation for the number of state residents who have enrolled in a health insurance plan on the exchange—second only to Vermont.

According to the latest figures, 59,353 Idahoans have filled out insurance applications to date and have been deemed eligible to enroll in a Your Health Idaho Plan. Of that number, nearly 33,000 Idahoans have enrolled in a plan.

But exchange officials are cautioning that Idahoans who want to secure coverage effective Saturday, March 1, 2014, will need to enroll by Saturday, Feb. 15.

Other important statistics include:

Of those who have selected a plan, 55 percent are females, 26 percent are between the ages 18 and 34, and 28 percent are over the age of 55. Nearly 70 percent have secured coverage through the so-called "silver plan," the mid-tier coverage, while 14 percent have chosen the bronze plan, 13 percent have chosen gold and 5 percent have chosen platinum plan coverage.

Perhaps the most important statistic is that 91 percent of those who have selected a plan have been eligible for financial assistance.

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