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Blue Cross of Idaho Introduces New Insurance Plans Charging People With Pre-Existing Conditions More

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Blue Cross of Idaho hopes to sell five new insurance plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this spring. It is the first company to make a move after Idaho Gov. Butch Otter issued an executive order allowing insurance plans that are not ACA compliant.

The non-ACA compliant “state-based” plans will charge higher premiums for pre-existing conditions and will have a $1 million cap on claims. One of the plans will not cover maternity care. The plans were made to insure an estimated “110,000” Idahoans who do not have coverage because of cost, according to the Idaho Statesman. The state-based plans would be considerably cheaper than ACA plans, but only for people without significant health concerns who are middle-class and above.

“The current marketplace is not affordable for middle-class families,” Charlene Maher, president and CEO of Blue Cross of Idaho said in a statement. “Our new state-based plans are a response to Governor Otter’s executive order, which begins to solve the issues that have kept middle-class Idahoans from buying health insurance.”

While the state-based plans will have lower premiums, they’ll end up having higher deductibles and copayments for when patients actually need to visit the doctor or hospital, similar to lower-premium ACA plans.

These state-based plans still have to be approved by the Idaho Department of Insurance. However, Dean Cameron, director of the Idaho Department of Insurance, told the Idaho Statesman, he was “excited” by Blue Cross’ plans.

“Obviously, we’re going to review their application carefully and review their rate carefully to make sure they meet our state guidelines, but we’re excited for Idaho consumers, because now they’ll be given a choice,” he said.

At the federal level, Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, has yet to take a stance regarding the proposed plans. During a Senate Finance Committee meeting on Thursday, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, asked Azar what he plans to do in regards to the Idaho insurance plans. Azar said he hadn’t seen any formal applications or waivers about the insurance plans but that he’d uphold the “standards of the law.” To which Wyden replied the state does not plan to file a waiver, and will instead, ignore federal law and go ahead with the insurance plans.

After Wyden asked Azar to come up with a plan to handle Idaho in 10 days, Azar said he could not do that because he didn’t want to be “prematurely involved.” A day earlier, Azar said he was committed to enforcing the ACA if the state violates it.

“They’re not planning to come to you and ask permission,” Wyden responded to Azar’s hesitance to be involved. “They’ve made the argument that they can just do it on their own, so this idea that we’re going to just to sit in our office back here and wait for somebody to tell us, ‘Oh, we’re going to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions’ — that will not cut it with me.”

Representatives, including Wyden, and others on Twitter have expressed concern over the plans and the precedent they’ll set for other states and insurance companies.

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Photo via Twitter and Wwsgconnect

Originally published: February 15, 2018
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