- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 16, 2018

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - State lawmakers moved forward with a plan to reduce Idaho’s health coverage gap.

A house committee introduced legislation on Monday that would allow the state to seek two federal waivers to the Affordable Care Act.

One waiver would allow low-income individuals to qualify for subsidies available to higher-income individuals. The other would expand Medicaid eligibility to make room for 12 serious and costly medical conditions.

This would shift an estimated $200 million in medical claims from the private insurance market to the federal government, allowing private insurance premiums to be reduced by about 20 percent.

“This proposal will make a significant difference in the lives of thousands of Idahoans,” Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron said. “It will provide better coverage and lower costs, and will make a difference for Idaho families who currently don’t qualify for premium assistance because their income isn’t high enough.”

Because Idaho never chose to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, people whose income is less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level don’t qualify for the subsidies that those who make more can get to buy insurance on the state insurance exchange; they also don’t qualify for Idaho’s limited Medicaid program. Under federal law, legal noncitizens who fall into the same income group do qualify for the subsidies.

About 78,000 working Idahoans are believed to be in the gap population that earns too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to qualify for insurance subsidies.

The Idaho Health Care Plan’s goal is to improve coverage and lower costs on the exchange.

The bill will go through public hearings before it can move out of the committee.

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