Bringing the Economy Home

Understanding The Number Of Idahoans Who Might Get Insurance Under Obamacare

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact

State leaders have yet to determine whether Idaho will establish a state-based health insurance exchange or expand Medicaid eligibility.  But there is quite a lot we do know about the likely effects of the federal health care law in Idaho.

About 46 percent of Idahoans get insurance through their employers, but that’s not the part of the market that will be most significantly affected by the law.  “The most dramatic changes that happen under the Affordable Care Act happen in the individual market,” explains Karen Pollitz of the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Through its online health insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, along with its subsidies and penalties, the law seeks to draw many more people into purchasing insurance in the individual market.

Here’s what that means in Idaho.  

In this state, just shy of 281,000 people don’t have health insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s  That’s about 18 percent of all Idahoans.  Among Idaho’s uninsured, a substantial percentage have incomes that are below 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

That 400 percent threshold is significant because the Affordable Care Act provides tax credits to people purchasing health insurance for themselves and their families in the individual market, as long as their incomes fall below that line.  In other words, a family of four will be eligible for subsidized health insurance as long as its household income doesn’t exceed roughly $92,000.

That’s not the only reason participation in the individual insurance market will rise.  The Affordable Care Act keeps insurers from denying people coverage based on preexisting conditions.  Moreover, many of those who are currently covered by individual insurance plans — about 8 percent of Idahoans — are expected to reexamine their insurance coverage once the Affordable Care Act is fully in place.  That’s because they, too, could be eligible for federal tax credits.

All told, the effects on the individual insurance market will be substantial.  “The number of uninsured, we expect, is going to fall by half, and half of that is going to go into the individual market,” Pollitz says, summing up the law’s effects nationwide.

Tomorrow morning, StateImpact will take a look at one lesser-known effect of the individual insurance market’s projected growth.  Here’s a hint: Every heath insurer out there will want this swell of new health insurance buyers to think of them first.

Tune in to KBSX 91.5 FM during Morning Edition to hear the story, or visit us right here.


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