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Your Health Idaho to host open enrollment

October 31, 2018 GMT

POCATELLO — Officials with the state’s Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace, called Your Health Idaho, say they’ll offer 293 certified plans in 2019, and premiums will increase by 5 percent on average.

Open enrollment for Your Health Idaho is scheduled from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

Applicants who register during the open enrollment period may be eligible for insurance tax credits. Those who miss open enrollment aren’t eligible for a tax credit unless they have a “qualifying life event,” such as marriage or the birth of a child.

On average, Idahoans save 80 percent of their monthly premium with tax credits, said Pat Kelly, executive director of Your Health Idaho. Kelly believes many residents don’t realize they’re eligible for credits. For example, a family of four with a combined income of $25,000 to $100,000 can obtain a tax credit, he said.

Kelly considers Idaho’s insurance cost inflation rate to be relatively modest, which he attributes to the efforts of the state’s Department of Insurance to “find solutions.” He said enrollment in Your Health Idaho has been stable at around 90,000 since 2017.

About 70 percent of participants allow their plans to automatically renew from year to year, and Kelly expects enrollment will remain at about that level after Idaho’s sixth open enrollment period.

“Those enrollment numbers have been very steady,” Kelly said, adding many people using the exchange never previously had coverage. “We think that’s largely because people are finding value in their coverage.”

Kelly said Idaho has ranked among the top three of all states for per-capital enrollment in recent years.

“Your Health Idaho has been recognized as one of the most successful (marketplaces) in the country,” Kelly said. “We are seeing some other states look to us as a model, and I think you’ll see more states look to us in the future.”

He said a key to Idaho’s success has been that people can work with their own insurance agents to apply for coverage. He said the state has a network of 900 agents and brokers who are certified to help people navigate the process of signing up for coverage. Three carriers offer policies throughout the state, and four carriers serve most of Idaho.

“Some states have little competition, and consumers suffer when they don’t have options,” Kelly said.

The Idaho Legislature voted in 2013 to create a state-based marketplace to provide “Idaho-based solutions,” rather than relying on a federally run marketplace. Your Health Idaho estimates it has saved Idahoans $22 million since forming by charging lower assessment fees than the federal marketplace.

Stephen Weeg heads a 19-member Your Health Idaho board that includes representation from lawmakers, insurance providers, insurance agents, state business leaders, health care providers and consumer representatives. Weeg encouraged Idahoans to start researching policies during November, noting the open enrollment window has been shrunk to six weeks.

“We have succeeded by focusing on good customer service and doing what we do really well and staying organizationally a couple of layers below the policy debates, because we can’t change those, but what we can do is offer really good insurance to a lot of people,” Weeg said. “With health insurance, it’s not a matter of if you’ll need it, but when, and you can’t control when.”

Your Health Idaho has scheduled an open house, where an insurance agent will answer questions about the enrollment process and tax credits from 4-6 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Idaho Falls Public Library.