Gov. Butch Otter said Idaho can’t pay for a second high-risk insurance pool, which is why the state is opting out of a federal program that’s part of health care legislation recently approved by Congress. The high-risk pool is for individuals who have been turned down from health insurance companies due to pre-existing health conditions.
“Put simply, Idaho cannot afford to subsidize a second high-risk pool program, especially during these difficult economic times,” Otter said in his letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius explaining Idaho’s decision to not take federal funds for a high risk insurance pool.
Idaho already has a high-risk insurance pool run by the Idaho Department of Insurance (DOI) that covers approximately 1,500 people. DOI estimates that 33,400 Idahoans could qualify for the new federal pool, which would last until 2014. The federal government would pay Idaho $24 million to provide high-risk insurance to those people, which DOI said would only pay for one or two months of coverage, rather than four years.
“Somebody will have to pay for that subsidy, and it’s going to be taxpayers,” Otter said in a prepared statement. “We continue to question the constitutionality of this law and remain concerned about the cost imposed on the citizens of Idaho. We aren’t the only ones who have decided we just can’t afford this costly federal mandate.” At least 17 other states have refused to run federally-backed insurance pools for those with preexisting conditions, including Nevada and Wyoming, according to The Washington Post.
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