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Department of Insurance budget clears JFAC without exchange money

Department of Insurance budget clears JFAC without exchange money

Dustin Hurst
February 23, 2012
Dustin Hurst
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February 23, 2012

The 2013 Department of Insurance budget debate figures to be much tamer compared to the 2012 rendition of the agency’s spending plan.

Members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved the 2013 budget without money for a federal health insurance exchange, something also left out in Gov. Butch Otter’s spending plan for the year.

Overall, the department will see a 1.9 percent funding increase from last year. The 2013 budget sits at $8.2 million and includes a mix of federal and state funds.

Passing the budget without $20 million in money granted to the state by the federal government will likely help its passage, particularly in the House.

Last year, members of the Idaho House of Representatives threatened to vote down the agency’s budget because it included $2.5 million in federal grant money for exchange research and initial development. Before the vote could take place, however, Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, a co-chair of the budget committee, asked that the document be sent back to her panel so the money could be removed.

The 2012 spending plan was later passed without the federal dollars. The state pitched in $500,000 for health exchange research, funds agency officials say will be depleted by the end of March.

Though the funding was not included in the appropriation, it’s unlikely the exchange debate is over. Earlier this week, Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Post Falls, introduced a resolution asking Idaho’s private insurance carriers to develop their own health exchange. He believes the state needs to stay out of the process entirely.

“I think we are going down a terrible road,” Nonini told a committee earlier this week. “We don’t need, in my opinion, a bunch of involvement at the state level.”

But others in the Capitol have their own plans, too. Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, has teamed up with Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, to create their own exchange. The duo, which emailed the prospective plan to lawmakers last week, have developed an exchange which would need $5 million in state funding.

The state-based program wouldn’t, however, be federally certified, nor would it provide the hefty subsidies called for in the original exchange plan.

Still, others call for the state to use the federal funding. Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, introduced a bill early in the session to create an exchange using federal funding. The bill has yet to be heard.

The insurance budget now heads to the House and Senate floors for votes.

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