Idaho gubernatorial candidates respond to health plan fall out

Idaho gubernatorial candidates are responding to the recent federal government’s announcement that the state’s plan to allow health insurance plans that don’t meet Affordable Care Act standards is illegal.

Republican Lieutenant Governor Brad Little has gone on the defensive after spending months touting the plan in campaign advertisements and social media. Earlier this year, Little joined Governor Butch Otter and Idaho Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron in announcing the plan.

However, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma issued a letter last week saying that the ACA remains the law and her agency has a duty to enforce it.

Under the proposal, Idaho would permit insurers to offer plans that don’t meet all of the act’s regulations, such as by charging people more based on their health history, or by not covering some health needs like maternity care. In her letter, Verma said such a move would force the federal agency to enforce the provisions of the ACA on behalf of the state. That could include pulling regulatory authority from the Idaho Department of Insurance and fining insurance companies $100 a day for every person they insure on a non-compliant plan.

Little downplayed the warning in the CMS letter.

GOP opponent Tommy Ahlquist, a former physician turned Boise developer, responded to the CMS letter by reiterating prior accusations that Little and Otter’s plan was a campaign stunt and was never designed to fix health care in Idaho.

Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff said Friday he was thrilled that Otter’s “illegal plan to sell skimpy health care coverage to Idahoans is dead,” while also calling Little’s involvement on the plan inappropriate on several levels.  (AP)