Health chief to meet with Idaho governor on controversial ObamaCare plan

Health chief to meet with Idaho governor on controversial ObamaCare plan
© Greg Nash

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar will meet with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) this weekend amid a controversial effort by Idaho's government to get around ObamaCare rules.

The meeting, one of many one-on-one meetings with governors that Azar will have at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, will be a chance for Azar to speak with Idaho officials for the first time about the state's proposal.

Otter last month signed an executive order to allow insurance plans to be sold that don't meet ObamaCare requirements. They would allow people with pre-existing conditions to be charged more, for example, something not allowed under ObamaCare.

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Otter argues the new plans are needed to provide more affordable options.

But Democrats have called the move plainly illegal, in violation of the Affordable Care Act. They have called on Azar to step in to enforce federal law.

Azar has not said what he will do or whether he thinks Idaho's move is legal. He has said he is waiting to see if one of the new plans is approved by the state.

The meeting was first reported by the Washington Examiner.

"Secretary Azar and [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] Administrator [Seema] Verma look forward to one-on-one meetings with 15+ governors this weekend, including Governor Otter of Idaho, at the NGA Annual Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C," an HHS spokesperson said. "Secretary Azar is also set to participate in a roundtable with governors focused on what’s working and where do we go next with the opioid crisis.”

Earlier this month, Azar said he will uphold ObamaCare as long as it remains the law.

In response to a question about the Idaho plan, Azar told a congressional panel that he has a responsibility to enforce the law.