Idaho leaders respond to CMS letter about state-based insurance plans

Posted at 1:30 PM, Mar 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-09 15:48:05-05

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma issued a letter to Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Idaho Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron on Thursday, reminding officials that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remains the law and that CMS has a duty to enforce that law.

Otter, Cameron and Lt. Gov. Brad Little announced earlier this year that they would begin allowing insurers to offer plans that don't meet all ACA regulations, such as by charging people more based on their health history, or by not covering some health needs like maternity care.

In the letter, Verma said such a move would force CMS to enforce the provisions of the Affordable Care Act on behalf of the state. That could include fining insurance companies $100 a day for every person they insure on a non-ACA compliant plan.

Otter's office released this statement in response to the letter from CMS, dated March 8, 2018:

“Contrary to news media interpretations, the letter from CMS Administrator Verma was not a rejection of our approach to providing more affordable health insurance options for the people of Idaho. Her letter made it clear that Idaho’s efforts to pursue innovative alternatives hold great promise, and we believe that Idaho’s plan aligns with the State’s responsibility for “substantially enforcing” Obamacare. In fact, we consider the letter an invitation from CMS to continue discussing the specifics of what can and cannot be included in state-based plans.  We will consider all possible options and then continue discussions with CMS and HHS on how best to achieve our shared goals of reducing the costs of coverage and stabilizing our health insurance market.”

Little also released the following statement in response:

“We want an Idaho solution for health insurance and we are going to do everything we can to achieve it. I believe Idaho is following the intent of the law by offering quality health insurance. We want to offer more choices and affordability to all Idahoans.

As highlighted by federal health regulators, Idahoans have seen over a 90-percent increase in their insurance premiums, forcing nearly 100,000 Idahoans to go without health insurance. This is unacceptable.

We are grateful that the Trump Administration is working with states to roll back Obamacare’s regulations and we look forward to an ongoing discussion that will result in implementing our state-centered solutions for healthcare."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.