The panel created to look at the feasibility of Idaho creating a health insurance exchange has met four times since August, spending more than $15,000 on supplies and consultants.
Information obtained through Idaho’s public records law, shows Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s health insurance exchange work group has spent the majority of that money on an independent contractor.
Valerie Fend-Boehm has invoiced the state for $12,686.25 as of October 15, 2012, and that doesn’t include her contract work for the first half of this month. Fend-Boehm contracted with Idaho’s Department of Insurance for $85 an hour.
Fend-Boehm says that most of her work included organizational tasks and research. She severed her contract with the state Oct. 9, because her work was largely complete, and for personal reasons, Fend-Boehm explained.
Gov. Otter created the work group in July after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health reform law. That law requires states to set up online marketplaces for people to purchase health insurance, known as insurance exchanges. If Idaho chooses not to create such an exchange, the federal government will create one for the state.
The Department of Insurance also contracted with a consultant from the accounting and professional services firm KPMG. Andrew Gottschalk works at KPMG’s Chicago office. He’s under contract with Idaho for $250 an hour. He hasn’t yet sent a bill to the state.
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The Department of Insurance has long advocated Idaho create it’s own health insurance exchange. But lawmakers during the 2012 legislative session rejected two proposals that would have created the online marketplace.
Now, states face a seemingly-strict set of deadlines, all of which experts say Idaho is unlikely to meet.
Department of Insurance Director Bill Deal says his department was allocated $500,000 to use for planning a health insurance exchange. He says more than half of that is available for things like hiring consultants. The Department of Insurance is funded largely by fees assessed to insurance companies and brokers.
The next meeting of the health insurance exchange work group is scheduled for Oct. 26 at the State Capitol. Deal expects the work group will finalize their recommendation to Gov. Otter at that meeting.