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Just 338 Idahoans selected exchange insurance

Just 338 people selected health coverage via Idaho’s insurance exchange during its glitch-plagued first month.

Your Health Idaho’s enrollee figures were released Nov. 13 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which also released statistics for the nation’s other state exchanges.

In all, 106,185 people in the United States selected plans between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2. President Barack Obama’s administration has predicted that about 7 million people will get coverage via exchanges in 2014, with Idaho accounting for 40,000 of that figure.

Idaho’s online exchange is part of Obama’s program to provide federally subsidized health insurance to more Americans. It is using the federal HealthCare.gov site to enroll participants, until at least next October. That’s because the 2013 Legislature only created the insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses in March — too late to complete its own enrollment system this year.

Consequently, many people here seeking coverage have encountered the same problems as prospective enrollees in 35 other states who are using the federal system that has in some instances completely broken down.

“I think that what it shows is the difficulty that’s happened with HealthCare.gov,” said House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston and a member of the exchange’s 18-member governance board. “We recognize that the federal site is not working is as it should, so we’re trying to mitigate as best we can.”

Among other things, Your Health Idaho has tried to address the bottleneck at the federal site by creating a calculator to help people determine what they might receive as a federal subsidy for buying insurance policies, based on their income.

It also plans to use a $50 million federal grant to build its own enrollment system by next October.

In total, 4,753 applications in Idaho have been completed for a total of 10,573 people, according to HHS figures gathered for the Oct. 1-Nov. 2 period.

Of those, 3,305 have been determined to be eligible for tax credits to offset the cost of their policies. Another 1,243 are pending.

Additionally, 1,597 people have been determined eligible for Medicaid, the federal-state health coverage program for the poor and disabled.

Your Health Idaho executive director Amy Dowd declined immediate comment, deferring questions to a press conference later Nov. 13.

States that used hundreds of millions in federal grants to build their own enrollment systems appear to have had more success in signing people up for coverage.

For instance, in Washington state, on Idaho’s western border, nearly 7,100 people selected plans via its exchange. California signed up the most people, with 35,364.

By contrast, states such as Idaho that are using the federal system reported far lower numbers.

Wyoming, Idaho’s easterly neighbor, signed up just 85 people. North Dakota had the lowest number of people select an exchange plan, at 42.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the target of criticism for exchanges’ poor showing in its first month, predicted that enrollment will grow substantially through March as the deadline to avoid penalties levied against those without insurance approaches.

“They’re also numbers that will grow as the website, HealthCare.gov, continues to make steady improvements,” Sebelius said.

About The Associated Press