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Insurance spokesmen: Idaho’s historic low rates may become a thing of the past

One of Idaho’s largest insurance providers predicts the state’s residents will pay more in premiums with the recent passage of the largest reform of the industry since Medicare and Medicaid originated in 1965, in a release.

According to an article in the Lewiston Morning Tribune, Idaho has the lowest health insurance premiums in the nation, running 11 percent less than the national average, according to an e-mail from Stewart Johnson, a spokesman for Blue Cross in Boise.

“We’re concerned for Idahoans because independent actuarial studies show that provisions in the legislation will increase health insurance premiums by an average of $2,000 per year for every Idaho family.”

But Johnson and a representative of Regence BlueShield of Idaho are hesitant to make many predictions about how the reform will unfold. It is supposed to give health coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans.

“It’s too early to tell how our business model may change, but we are continually reviewing our products and services and coming up with new and innovative ideas to best serve our members,” according to an e-mail from Mike Tatko, a spokesman for Regence BlueShield of Idaho in Lewiston.

Blue Cross’ and Regence’s handling of health care reform matters to residents of north central Idaho because it will shape how they receive medical services and Regence is one of Lewiston’s largest employers.

Health care reform won’t change the number of people Regence has in Lewiston, where 654 of its 674 Idaho workers are based, Tatko wrote.

Other variables are less certain.

“We don’t yet know how the Idaho law exempting the state from a health insurance mandate could change how the federal law affects Idahoans,” Stewart wrote.

Another big unknown in Idaho is the outcome of a lawsuit filed against three federal agencies by the state attorney general and his counterparts in 12 other states, including Washington. The suit challenges the constitutionality of health care reform.


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