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AARP Says Otter's Opt-Out A 'Cop Out'

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 General News J E 4
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Gov's Foot Dragging Means Idaho Misses Chance to Manage High Risk Health Insurance Program for 34,000 Eligible State Residents

Statement by Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP Idaho

BOISE, Idaho, May 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Idaho Governor Butch Otter has again jumped at the opportunity to be a roadblock to helping people access affordable health care under the new federal health insurance law. This time, Otter's given up a crucial seat at the table opting-out of establishing a new temporary insurance pool for high risk Idahoans with pre-existing conditions, paid for by the federal government.

The Governor's move is a cop out - plain and simple.

Managing this program at the state level, would have given Idaho a better opportunity to ensure it meets the needs of the growing ranks of those who can't get health insurance. The cost of the high risk pool will be covered, 100%, by the federal government - coming at a time when Idaho can use the help. Now, it's up to the federal government to put in place a program that Idaho could have and should have stepped up to the plate on.

Idaho's existing high risk pool costs 25% more than the standard rate for health insurance, leaving only 1,500 of our state's roughly 34,000 eligible residents able to afford it. The new pool will provide $24 million to ensure Idahoans with pre-existing conditions aren't priced out of the market until it becomes illegal to deny them health insurance in 2014.

Idaho missed an opportunity on this one. The Governor's move does nothing to address the real concerns of people in Idaho who continue to struggle with access to affordable health care.

We need to move beyond the politics of health care and ensure people have the information they need regarding what's in the new law, what the benefits are and what's available when. In the coming weeks AARP in Idaho will launch a statewide education effort to help.

In addition to banning the practice of insurance companies denying care to people with pre-existing conditions, the new law closes the dreaded Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole" (27% of Idaho Medicare beneficiaries fell into the hole last year), and encourages doctors to accept Medicare patients (currently about 1 in 4 Idaho doctors don't take new patients under the program). These are the facts.

The people of Idaho don't need more rhetoric, divisiveness and scare tactics on one of the most pressing kitchen table issues in our state, their health care. They need their state to be at the table to ensure we take advantage of a new law that can help relieve the stress of Idaho's worsening health care crisis.

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

Follow us on Twitter @AARPIdaho and Facebook: AARP Idaho

SOURCE AARP Idaho
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