BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said Tuesday a state-built health insurance exchange is the best option for Idaho under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), but he left the final decision up to lawmakers who return to Boise in January.
Otter has criticized PPACA — Idaho was among states that sued unsuccessfully to overturn it — and he’s taken months to make a decision on the insurance exchange, to be an online marketplace for insurance products for individuals and small businesses.
But he said his options were limited to letting the federal government call the shots or having the state take an active role.
With Tuesday’s decision, Otter follows the recommendation of a governor-appointed panel from October that Idaho adopt a state-based, nonprofit exchange, rather than letting the federal government intervene with its own.
“There will be a health insurance exchange in Idaho,” Otter said in a statement. “Our options have come down to this: Do nothing and be at the federal government’s mercy in how that exchange is designed and run, or take a seat at the table and play the cards we’ve been dealt. I cannot willingly surrender a role for Idaho.”
Jon Hanian, Otter’s spokesman, said Idaho still must inform U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the governor’s decision, as well as send a so-called “blueprint” containing at least some of the details of Idaho’s exchange, including the composition of the board that will oversee it.
The blueprint, being crafted by Department of Insurance Director Bill Deal, will likely be sent on Friday, Hanian said. “It’s not done yet,” he said.
Otter’s decision will please businesses and insurance companies in Idaho that championed a state-built exchange. They argued its policies would be tailored to fit Idaho residents, unlike a federally-run exchange designed for some 20 states that have chosen that option.
“A state-based exchange will help Idaho have more control over Idaho’s health insurance costs and keep Idaho in the driver’s seat on health insurance issues,” said Heidi Low, executive director of the Idaho Health Exchange Alliance, a group of some 400 individuals and businesses advocating for a state exchange.