Bringing the Economy Home

Idaho’s Latest Health Exchange Bill Prevents Gun Data Collection, Adds Legislative Oversight

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact

Public comment on the Idaho Legislature’s new health insurance exchange bill starts bright and early tomorrow morning. With signup starting at 6:30 a.m., interested citizens will have the chance give the House Health and Welfare Committee their opinion on the revamped bill that would create a state-based health insurance exchange.

As we reported Monday, the new bill combines Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s initial proposal that passed in the Senate, with more legislative oversight as requested by a group of 16 freshman legislators. The most noticeable change from the original Senate Bill 1042 to the new House Bill 248 is that three legislators will be appointed to the exchange’s oversight board.

StateImpact did this line-by-line comparison with the original version of the bill and the latest iteration. You’ll see the majority of the new text is on page 5. It’s there that House lawmakers included a section that explicitly says the insurance exchange can’t ask customers about their use, ownership, possession, or storage of any firearms or ammunition.

The governor’s health and social services special assistant Tammy Perkins says that language was included to quell some House lawmakers’ concerns that gun data might be collected under the new health insurance exchange.

“A lot of legislators had a concern about the exchange being able to take data and keep that kind of information,” says Perkins. “I don’t think that’s something the exchange could do according to the Affordable Care Act, but we went ahead and put in there.”

Idaho Department of Insurance deputy director Tom Donovan says there is nothing in the state’s insurance code that explicitly addresses gun ownership information.

The new exchange bill also adds two sections that clarify when the state can either back out or shut down the online marketplace. If any part of the Affordable Care Act is found unconstitutional or made “invalid by any federal court,” Idaho’s health exchange would no longer have to abide by that part of the law, according to the governor’s office. The entire exchange could shut down if the governor removes the oversight board or the Legislature reverses the law. The House bill also says if the federal Department of Health and Human Services or Congress changes compliance dates the governor won’t be forced to comply.

The original bill said all health insurance exchange board meetings would be subject to Idaho’s open meetings law. The new version spells out what a public meeting should look like. The House version says all board meetings should be in a public forum, and “every reasonable effort” should be made to televise or live-stream the meetings.

If you can’t make it to tomorrow’s public hearing at the Capitol, you’ll be able to watch the live web-stream here. If House Bill 248 passes its committee and the full Chamber, it will have to work its way through the Senate.

Correction and Clarification: We originally reported the insurance exchange could shut down if any part of the Affordable Care Act is found unconstitutional. The governor’s office has clarified that the exchange would shut down if the Legislature reversed the law or if the governor removed the oversight board.

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