Idaho Exchange’s Weeg Says They Will “Beg, Borrow and Steal” To Meet Open Enrollment On Oct 1

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Jason Milliman over at Politico explains how Idaho is looking to incorporate infrastructure from the federal exchange marketplace in order to meet federal exchange deadlines in order to allow them to maintain control of Idaho’s exchange:

Idaho in health exchange ‘scramble’

By JASON MILLMAN | 5/10/13

Can a state actually build an Obamacare health insurance exchange in six months? Idaho’s about to find out — with a little help from the feds.

The newly formed Idaho exchange board and the federal exchange office have been talking about ways the state can remain in control of its exchange while borrowing pieces of the federal exchange’s infrastructure. As interim Chairman Stephen Weeg puts it, Idaho is looking to “beg, borrow and steal” its way to the Oct. 1 start of open enrollment.

“We’re trying to scramble and put everything together in an incredibly short amount of time,” said Weeg, who took the helm of the board when it was established last month.

The Obama administration has been pushing for the past three years for states to run their own exchanges, but just 16 states and Washington are slated to do that. And Idaho carries a little more significance as just one of three red states bucking the party’s Obamacare repeal stance to run its own exchange.

While even the states most enthusiastically implementing Obamacare are working through complicated policy and technical issues three years into building their own exchanges, the new Idaho exchange board still has to figure out the basics with less than five months until open enrollment starts — things like getting an office, setting ground rules for itself and getting the OK to draw down on federal grants.

Against odds, Gov. Butch Otter managed to push through legislation this year creating a state-based exchange when nearly all other Republican governors refused to build their own. But passing legislation might have been the easy part now the state has to make the exchange work.

“We’re still working through what all this means and how we’ll do it,” said Weeg, who couldn’t yet point to specific examples of how Idaho could lean on the feds for some early help. He expects the state will have conversations with the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, the federal exchange agency, about this over the next few weeks.

“We’ll be a state-based exchange on Oct. 1,” he said. “What background elements there are is yet to be determined.”

Still, there’s real concern within the exchange board about doing anything with the feds.

“The Legislature is not interested,” state Sen. Jim Rice, who sits on the board, said during a Thursday afternoon meeting. “That’s, frankly, why we set this up the way we did.”

There’s not a whole lot of time to decide, either. The state has until May 20 to tell the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight which parts of the federal exchange it would want to use.

Idaho has already put some of the major pieces in place since Otter signed the exchange bill about six weeks ago. The 19-member exchange board was installed and has been meeting regularly. The exchange recently hired an executive director who was involved in the early stages of exchange planning a few years ago.

But the exchange board still has some housekeeping items to take care of, though, like setting bylaws and a procurement policy before it can even seek out vendors to help stand up the new insurance marketplace. And more than a year after the Legislature specifically blocked Idaho from using a $20 million federal exchange grant, the board still hasn’t been able to tap into that money. Weeg says the exchange will have to submit another budget request.

Facing all that, will Idaho be ready Oct. 1? Weeg says yes.

“We’re moving forward with a state-based exchange,” he said. “We’re going to make it work.”