Idaho insurer to sell plans outside ObamaCare rules

Idaho insurer to sell plans outside ObamaCare rules
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Blue Cross of Idaho on Wednesday announced that it will offer health insurance plans that do not meet ObamaCare requirements after a controversial executive order from the state’s Republican governor.

The move by the insurer is a step further for Gov. Butch Otter’s plan to bring cheaper options into the market. He says ObamaCare plans are too expensive and more healthy people need to be drawn into the marketplace.

But his proposal is legally questionable and has drawn backlash from Democrats who say he is simply ignoring federal law.

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The new Blue Cross plans, which still need to be formally approved by the state, appear to have cheaper premiums than ObamaCare plans, but they also would charge people with pre-existing conditions more and have a limit of $1 million in claims per year, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Both of those features are not allowed under ObamaCare.

Blue Cross of Idaho says that the plans will "bring more choices and lower prices to consumers."

“The current marketplace is not affordable for middle-class families,” Charlene Maher, CEO of Blue Cross of Idaho, said in a statement. “Our new state-based plans are a response to Governor Otter’s executive order, which begins to solve the issues that have kept middle-class Idahoans from buying health insurance. Our Freedom Blue plans bring more choices and lower prices to consumers.”

Democrats have been pressuring Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to step in to stop Idaho’s plan and enforce the law. It is not clear whether Azar will do so.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation in Idaho," an HHS spokesperson said. "HHS is committed to working with states to give them the flexibility to provide their citizens the best possible access to healthcare, within the bounds of the law.”

Azar told a congressional hearing Wednesday that "we need to enforce" the law but did not directly say whether he would step in. 

This story was updated at 11:07 a.m.