Members of the board of directors for Idaho’s new health insurance exchange met Thursday with some expressing dismay when Amy Dowd, executive director of the exchange, told the board of more federal involvement with the state-based exchange.
Near the end of her presentation, Dowd told the board members that the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will require the Idaho insurance exchange to display the logo of HealthCare.gov, the federal government’s website for federally controlled insurance plans. “We will co-brand YourhealthIdaho.org with Healthcare.gov,” she explained to the board.
“We have been under the assumption that Idaho’s logo would be more prominent on the website,” said Dave Self, an executive with Pacific Source Health Plans, one of the insurance companies whose policies will be sold through the exchange. He is also a voting member of the exchange board of directors.
“This is very different. After all the work we’ve done and the battle we fought for a state-based insurance exchange, if the first thing people see when they go to our website is the federal logo, then obviously this is quite sub-optimal,” Self said.
Dowd assured Self that the requirement of having the federal logo on the website will be temporary, only lasting for the first year of the exchange’s operation.
“This points to the wisdom of choosing a state-based exchange,” Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a member of the exchange board, said in reply to Self. “Had we let this default to a federal exchange we would have no options or recourse.”
“Will our state URL even be working when the website launches?” Self asked Dowd.
“It absolutely will,” Dowd replied.
“Well, we need to absolutely be sure that our media buys leverage the local, Idaho-based framework of this,” Self replied. Dowd nodded in agreement.
Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, a voting member of the board, asked Dowd, “has the governor and his staff been made aware of this situation?” Dowd assured Rice that Otter and his staff have been briefed on the matter.
“Sometimes the governor can work through the federal bureaucracy to resolve these kinds of situations,” Rice noted.
During the nearly two-hour meeting, held at the offices of the Hawley Troxell law firm in Boise (the firm provides legal counsel to the exchange), Dowd briefed board members on the emergence of the exchange’s new website, YourHealthIdaho.org. “We’ve received lots of positive feedback since we revealed the new website and logo,” she stated, noting that the governor had participated with her at a website-unveiling press conference earlier this month.
Dowd told the board that hand-held fans bearing the exchange website and logo were being passed out at county fairs across the state as a means of educating consumers about the exchange and that the exchange is also assembling a bureau of speakers who will be available statewide to explain to Idahoans how the exchange works.
“We’ll begin an open enrollment period on Oct. 1 and that will continue until the end of March 2014,” she stated, noting that actual insurance coverage will be available Jan. 1 of next year. “Plans are also moving forward with our paid media (advertising) campaigns.”
Dowd also informed the board members that she and Otter had recently participated in a conference call about the exchange with Kathleen Sebelius. “Secretary Sebelius really likes our grassroots, neighbor talking to neighbor approach to educating people,” she said.
In addition to hearing Dowd’s presentation, the board members unanimously approved a contract between the Idaho insurance exchange and Accenture, a private consulting firm that is assisting other states in building their insurance exchange websites.
“They’ve done a good job in California,” said Richard Armstrong, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and a non-voting member of the exchange board. Armstrong told the board members that Accenture will make sure that Idaho’s insurance exchange effectively integrates the purchase of insurance plans with the distribution of federally funded Medicaid health benefits.
The board of directors also unanimously approved an expansion of benefits that are to be extended to the exchange’s employees. While the purchase of health insurance benefits for the employees was approved at the board’s Aug. 14 meeting, Thursday the board approved the purchase of life insurance, disability insurance and the development of flex spending accounts to each of the exchange’s full-time employees.
The board members did not discuss any of the costs associated with the Accenture contract, or the additional insurance benefits for the exchange employees.
Following the meeting, a representative from Hawley Troxell declined to offer IdahoReporter.com any specifics on the costs, deferring instead to Jody Olson, communications director for the exchange. Olson, however, left the board meeting before its adjournment, and could not be reached for an explanation of the costs approved by the board.