Turning Down Fed. Health Care Dollars Could Cost Idahoans

Mar 29, 2011, 11:07 ET from AARP Idaho

Refusing $2.5 Million for Health Care Ins. Exchange Puts Politics before Needs of Families & Small Businesses

BOISE, Idaho, March 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Idaho lawmakers grapple with a state budget shortfall, many Idaho residents struggle with another budget issue – finding affordable health care.  But political grandstanding may be in the way of a new tool and money to help.  Some state lawmakers want to turn down roughly $2.5 million in federal funding to create what's called a health care exchange, a tool to help state residents find the right plan at the right price.  AARP says that's the wrong move.

"Saying 'no' to money that will better enable Idahoans to find affordable health insurance doesn't make any sense – it's a politics-before-people approach that is little more than taking a stand on the backs of Idahoans," said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho.  "AARP urges Idaho lawmakers to take advantage of the opportunities this funding provides for Idahoans."

The funding is provided to help Idaho create a state-specific health care exchange, allowing individuals, families and small businesses to find health care that fits their needs and pocketbooks by giving them the same advantages large companies have when they negotiate group rates.  The exchanges also bring greater transparency to the health insurance industry.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states have until 2013 to set up a health insurance exchange. If a state does not set up its own exchange, the federal government will run the exchange for the state.

"This is an opportunity to save Idaho from having to spend its own dollars to plan an exchange while paving the way for Idahoans to find affordable health care," added Wordelman.  "AARP is requesting that Idaho lawmakers put this funding back in the Department of Insurance budget."

A recent AARP Idaho survey of the state's 50+ (Voices of 50+ Idaho, http://bit.ly/gBePOb) found 47% cited health care issues, including cost, as a top challenge.  

AARP believes that health care exchanges are vital in the effort to extend health coverage, while improving access and affordability for those already in the individual and small markets, both areas typically see much higher insurance premiums.  

AARP is Idaho's largest membership organization with 180,000 members.

Follow us on Twitter @AARPIdaho and Facebook: AARP Idaho