Idaho governor not backing down from attempt to skirt ObamaCare

Idaho governor not backing down from attempt to skirt ObamaCare
© Hill Photo Illustration/Garrett Evans

Idaho's Gov. Butch Otter (R) is not backing down from a plan to skirt ObamaCare rules with new state health insurance plans, despite a letter from the Trump administration saying the plan appeared to violate federal law.

Otter said Friday that, despite a letter warning the state about its plans this week, the Trump administration is not asking the state to back down and discussions remain open.

Otter said in a statement Friday that he does not take a letter from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma on Thursday to be a rejection and that he plans to continue discussing the state’s plan with the administration.

“Contrary to news media interpretations, the letter from CMS Administrator Verma was not a rejection of our approach to providing more affordable health insurance options for the people of Idaho,” Otter said in a statement, along with the state’s lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner.

The move from Verma on Thursday was notable because it was a Republican administration stepping in to enforce ObamaCare and prevent a plan to get around its rules by a Republican governor.

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Otter, though, said he plans to continue discussions with the Trump administration, indicating that he thinks there are changes to the state’s approach that could be made.

“In fact, we consider the letter an invitation from CMS to continue discussing the specifics of what can and cannot be included in state-based plans,” the statement said.

However, Verma's letter was widely viewed as a rejection of Idaho’s proposal.

"[The Affordable Care Act] remains the law and we have a duty to enforce and uphold the law," Verma wrote in the letter to Otter.

Verma added in a statement that "CMS has reason to believe that Idaho would be failing to substantially enforce the provisions" of the Affordable Care Act under its proposal.

Idaho's proposal would allow insurers to sell plans that charge people with pre-existing conditions more, which is barred by ObamaCare, and not cover all of the health services required under the health law.

Verma gave Idaho an alternative way to get at similar ends in her letter, saying that the state could use a separate type of cheaper, skimpier plan expanded by the Trump administration that are known as short-term plans.

The statement from the Idaho officials indicates they are not satisfied with that alternative.