Obamacare uncharted: Idahoans speak up

Obamacare uncharted: Idahoans speak up

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On Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. four individuals who specialize in different areas of healthcare spoke in the Jordan Ballroom as part of a Healthcare Forum about the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare, and its impact on Idaho.

“During the election there was a lot of rhetoric and disinformation, really, about healthcare. Our goal tonight is to shed light, not heat, on these important issues,” said Susan Ault, president elect of the Idaho Public Health Association who moderated for the event.

The four speakers were allotted 15 minutes to briefly discuss one certain aspect of healthcare reform in Idaho.

Landis Rossi, the executive director of Catholic Charities of Idaho, gave a rapid overview of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in 2010. Because of the controversy surrounding the reformation of healthcare in the United States, the full law could not be implemented until the Supreme Court declared it constitutional in June of this year.

“The goal of the Affordable Care Act is really seamless coverage across a continuum of coverage, so really making sure that people have access to affordable health insurance,” Rossi said.

Russ Barron, of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, dove into more detail about the number of uninsured Americans and the expansion of Medicaid, the one entity of the Affordable Care Act the Supreme Court left up to the discretion of
individual states.

The Idaho legislature developed a proposal which they presented to Gov. Butch Otter suggesting he adopt the expansion of Medicaid.

Should the governor choose to expand, ten percent of the expansion cost would be covered by the state of Idaho while the federal government would foot the other 90 percent of the bill. However, some people question where the federal government would come up with 90 percent of the expansion costs.

“I feel like it’s not really a question of whether we should do it (expand Medicaid) or not; we should. But then the only question in my mind is how is our federal government going to come up with those funds,” said Boise State student Natasha Spratt.

Medicaid aside, the legislature still must take immediate action to determine the type of healthcare exchange Idaho will enact in the beginning of 2014: federal exchange in which healthcare is regulated for the state at the federal level, state exchange in which healthcare is regulated for the state at the state level, or a partnership exchange, which is a combination of both.

Dave Self, the senior vice president for PacificSource Health Plans, explained the basic differences between these exchange plans.

The deadline to declare a particular intent is Friday.

However, Idaho took no action in the past legislative session concerning healthcare, so the state is currently on tract to participate in federal exchange healthcare.

Should the legislature take action in the next few days and declare state exchange healthcare, the basic blueprint for the program is due to the federal government by Dec. 14.

Open enrollment begins for healthcare programs next October and Jan. 1, 2014, is the effective date of coverage for all healthcare policies.

“Obamacare is here, and the Supreme Court says it’s the law of the land,” said Senator Dan Schmidt, one of Idaho’s few minority party senators and a current family practitioner.

Schmidt discussed the importance of healthcare for students, including the reason for mandated healthcare for all Boise State students.

Federal tax credits could be the most impactful piece of the healthcare bill in terms of what students pay for healthcare.

If students are eligible based on income to receive these federal tax credits, the cost of healthcare (not including the Student Health Insurance Plan or S.H.I.P.) could be
substantially less.

Additionally, Schmidt brought up the Catastrophic Health Care (CAT) fund currently in place in Idaho and how that money must be allotted to certain applicants in order to offset some medical bills.

The implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act will call for the reform of the CAT fund, which both Rossi and Schmidt agree to be unsustainable.

“It’s complicated,” admitted Schmidt, “but complicated problems require diligence and persistence.”

The next few days will be significant in terms of Medicaid expansion and exchange plans in the state of Idaho as well as other states all accross the country.

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