Idaho Just Showed the Rest of America How to Get Around Obamacare

It’s no secret that Obamacare has caused controversy since the day it was proposed, yet one state in particular is now finding a way to get around the Affordable Care Act, and others may soon follow suit.

According to the Washington Examiner, Idaho has responded to congressional Republicans’ failure to repeal and replace Obamacare by simply blowing off the law.

The move began last year when Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed an executive order that created a path for “non-Obamacare-compliant” insurance plans to be sold throughout the state.

In the meantime, Lt. Gov. Brad Little has put together the details of the initiative, which is speculated to stir controversy as both officials attempt to put affordable health insurance plans back on the market.

“We’re trying to offer a choice that allows the middle class to get back into insurance coverage,” stated Dave Jeppesen, the executive vice president of health care company Blue Cross.

To do this, Idaho officials had to give citizens a way of avoiding the increases in insurance premiums that have resulted from Obamacare — which have mainly hurt middle-income Americans who often have to pay out of pocket for their care without government subsidies.

Those middle-class individuals have “gritted their teeth and bought expensive policies” or chosen to “break the law, pay the fine, and do without insurance,” according to the Examiner. And the initiative announced in Idaho will allow individuals to select from plans that don’t fulfill all of “Obamacare’s expensive criteria.”

However, though the plan has been in the works for some time, as it appears to “flout” federal law, some speculated that insurers will be hesitant to participate — until one did.

Earlier this week, Blue Cross of Idaho announced that it would be participating, providing information about just one of the five plans it will be offering called “Freedom Blue Standard.”

The “Freedom” plan is similar to the Obamacare Exchange bronze plans, which tout similar deductibles, coinsurance rates, and out-of-pocket maximums, though there are also stark differences between the two.

One such difference is the idea of insurance pricing based on an individuals’ health, allowing even the healthiest buyers to afford the plan at as little as 40 percent of what Obamacare’s bronze plan costs, though it differs slightly with age.

This means that the average buyer of the “Freedom” plan can save anywhere from 22 to 66 percent of the price they would have paid for the bronze plan under Obamacare.

The reason for the flexibility in the plan and its savings is the idea of health underwriting, which assesses the risk associated with providing health insurance coverage to an individual.

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When Obamacare was initiated, the tradeoff for higher prices was supposed to acknowledge that the sickest patients could receive the same level of care at the same price as anybody else.

In doing so, however, the plan also took away choice for many — especially for those with pre-existing conditions — to see certain specialists from whom they needed to receive care.

Yet, the “Freedom” plan indicates that this benefit for the higher risk is modest at best, as the sickest patients would only be charged 25 to 35 percent more than the rate that those currently enrolled in Obamacare must pay.

Though Idaho’s experiment is bold and has been met with praise by some, others are concerned about the potential side-stepping of federal law, and worry about the trail of consequences it could leave in its wake.

“If Idaho is able to do this, it will mean other … states will do the same thing,” said Robert Laszewski, a consultant and former insurance industry executive, according to NPR. “If a state can ignore federal law on this, it can ignore federal law on everything.”

This post was last modified on February 20, 2018, 1:56 pm