According to business some business leaders, a nonprofit could run a health insurance exchange and bring free-market solutions to the issue.
According to a conservative lobbying group, the business folks are wrong about what constitutes a free-market solution.
If you want to sort out the back and forth, here are the dueling news releases.
Up first, a group calling itself the Idaho Association of Health Plans:
The road map to a state-based health insurance exchange, with a nonprofit corporation at the helm, is an excellent way to serve Idaho businesses and consumers using a free-market solution and no state funds, according to a national expert on health policy.
Jack Rovner, an attorney and principal of The Health Law Consultancy, told Idaho’s Health Insurance Exchange Working Group today that a precedent set in 2004, under President George W. Bush, lays the groundwork for Idaho to develop a state-based nonprofit to manage a health insurance exchange. The Idaho Health Data Exchange, created by executive order from Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter in 2008 under the Idaho Nonprofit Corporation Act, was created as part of a federal initiative to encourage the development of electronic health information exchange.
While Idaho’s work group reviews possible solutions, Rovner said Tuesday that a nonprofit entity would be streamlined more than a state-government managed program. Free of the burden of state bureaucracy and without any funding needed from taxpayers, the nonprofit health insurance exchange would have incentive to keep insurance costs down for businesses and consumers. Moreover, Rovner said, the nonprofit corporation, run by Idahoans, would not be constrained by bureaucracy’s requirements about just how it keeps costs down.
Rovner further noted that Idaho’s health plans and Idaho brokers and agents would benefit from a private-sector solution that allows for local control of a health insurance exchange, to provide the best solutions for Idaho businesses and consumers. The time is now to get ahead of the federal government, which is planning to impose its own version of a state health exchange if Idaho doesn’t pick up the challenge, and soon.
“If Idaho wants to help businesses and consumers in the complicated arena of health care policy, then a nonprofit corporation offers the most flexibility and local control,” said Dave Self, the senior vice president of Pacific Source Health Plans and Regional Director of Idaho and Washington and a member of the Health Exchange Working Group appointed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. “We can devise a private-sector nonprofit corporation that will help our businesses and consumers, and keep the system in Idaho’s hands.”
According to Rovner’s presentation, Idaho could use one-time federal grant funding to create an Idaho-based nonprofit exchange that would be self-funding, without the use of any state funds and without raising taxes. The nonprofit corporation running the exchange could be governed by a board comprised of Idahoans from across the spectrum, including healthcare entities, brokers, agents, consumers and businesses.
“Idaho has an opportunity now to create an Idaho-managed nonprofit corporation to quickly get ahead of the federal government’s one-size-fits-all solution,” said Alex LaBeau, the president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, or IACI. “Thanks to Jack Rovner's presentation, we now know that it can be done, and done efficiently. It makes good economic sense for the state of Idaho, the citizens and the businesses impacted by this over the long run. A state exchange, particularly one managed as a nonprofit corporation, can work in the best interests of our small businesses and individuals in this state.” LaBeau is also a member of the workgroup.
Exchanges are essentially online marketplaces intended to make health insurance options more clear and thereby more competitive. They would provide a single stop web portal for comparing and selecting health insurance products. They are intended to simplify the process by laying out health insurance options and explaining plans in terms of benefits and costs.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, Idaho has until Nov. 16 to declare its intention to design and build its own exchange. If Idaho decides not to pursue a state exchange — or fails to meet the deadline — the federal government will create one, which will be operated at the state’s expense.
And here's the retort from the Idaho Freedom Foundation:
The Idaho Freedom Foundation Thursday responded to a news release claiming that Idaho businesses are "getting behind a proposal to create a private version of a health insurance exchange instead of a state-run or quasi-governmental one."
Idaho Freedom Foundation Executive Director Wayne Hoffman, a member of the governor's health insurance exchange task force, said it is incorrect to suggest, as backers of the plan have, that a state-created nonprofit to run the exchange would be a "free market solution."
"There is no such thing as a free market government-created entity charged with carrying out federal and state law," Hoffman said. "Further, creating a new nonprofit entity is a trendy way for the state and federal government to avoid taking responsibility when the health insurance exchange that they've created raises costs or outright fails."
The state-created entity would have the legal ability to set and enforce fees used to fund the health insurance exchange. Under federal law, health insurance exchanges must be financially self-sufficient by 2015.
"If Idaho wants to make sure businesses and consumers are trapped in a bureaucratic maze for which there is no way out and no accountability, a state-created non-profit administering a dysfunctional federal health care law is a good way to get there," Hoffman said.
"Most of the business leaders I speak to know that there is no upside to the state creating a health insurance exchange and want Idaho policymakers to continue the fight against the federal government's takeover of the health care industry," Hoffman added.