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Idaho to comply with reform

| June 17, 2010 9:00 PM

LEWISTON (AP) - The Idaho Department of Insurance is working to implement a major piece of a new health care law, even as the state seeks to overturn the reform.

States are required under the new law to set up the new insurance markets, called exchanges, which let consumers and small businesses choose health insurance.

Department director Bill Deal said his staff is working to health care exchanges in place two years ahead of the deadline.

Idaho is required to have an approved plan by 2013, with an operating exchange available by 2014, he said.

"But we're doing our best to have it up and running by 2012," Deal told the Lewiston Tribune. "You don't just form a program like this, flip the switch and have it run perfectly. I'd like to get it going a little earlier."

About 30 million people will get their coverage through exchanges nationwide, with federal subsidies available to help low-income people buy policies.

Idaho is among several states trying to overturn President Barack Obama's health care overhaul in a federal lawsuit that was filed in Florida just minutes after the 10-year, $938 billion health care bill into law.

The states claim the federal government cannot force citizens to buy health coverage. They also argue the federal government is violating the Constitution by forcing a mandate on the states without providing money to pay for it.

Regence BlueShield of Idaho has more than 210,000 members statewide and hopes to participate in the new health care exchange.

But the company won't make a firm commitment until all the new rules and requirements are completed, said spokesman Mike Tatko.

Until then, the insurer will keep working with the state to implement the new bill, he said.

"The overarching message is that reform is good," Tatko said. "Not everyone agrees with every aspect of the bill, but the current model isn't sustainable."

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