Idaho health exchange repays $385K loan from Health and Welfare

In my cover story for Tuesday’s Business Insider magazine, I reported that the Idaho Health Exchange Board had promised to repay a $385,000 loan it received from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare by month’s end. The loan came from a federal performance bonus awarded to the state and was suggested by of one of the 19-member board’s two non-voting members, Health and Welfare Director Dick Armstrong.

The money was used for start-up costs, including salaries, technology and rent, while the exchange awaited a $20.3 million federal grant.

Today, the exchange, branding itself as Your Health Idaho, said the money was repaid Wednesday. The 2013 law establishing the exchange in prohibited the use of state tax dollars to support the exchange.

“We are grateful for the Department of Health and Welfare’s loan that helped to temporarily cover costs of our State-based Health Insurance Marketplace,” said Your Health Idaho Executive Director Amy Dowd in a news release.  “Now that we have received our federal grant for Your Health Idaho, we are able to repay the loan to the Department of Health and Welfare.”

The exchange is set to open Tuesday, offering online shopping for insurance and access to federal subsidies, as well as a call center and in-person advice. The call center opened Wednesday and can be reached toll-free at 1-855-944-3246. Hours are Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The news release follows:

Your Health Idaho Pays Back Loan to Department of Health & Welfare

BOISE, Idaho –Your Health Idaho has paid back the $385,000 federal loan it received in May from the Department of Health and Welfare to cover startup costs for Idaho’s State-based Health Insurance Marketplace. The loan was paid back in full on Sept. 25, 2013, just four months after the loan was received.

Your Health Idaho received the loan in May to cover start-up costs for Idaho’s State-based Marketplace during the lag time before Your Health Idaho received its federal grant award to cover the cost of operations. The loan came from discretionary federal funds Health and Welfare received from a high performance bonus award.  The Idaho Medicaid Program is federally mandated to interface with Your Health Idaho, and any delays would have caused missed deadlines and the potential for the state to be penalized millions of dollars. The loan meant that Your Health Idaho was able to begin work immediately, increasing the possibility for Medicaid to meet its deadlines and ensuring that Idaho’s Health Insurance Marketplace remains under Idaho control and is ready by the federal deadline.

“We are grateful for the Department of Health and Welfare’s loan that helped to temporarily cover costs of our State-based Health Insurance Marketplace,” said Amy Dowd, Your Health Idaho executive director.  “Now that we have received our federal grant for Your Health Idaho, we are able to repay the loan to the Department of Health and Welfare.”

Your Health Idaho received a $20.3 million Level One federal grant award from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services on July 30, 2013.  On Aug. 13, 2013 the Your Health Idaho Board voted to approve to proceed with a second Level One grant submission to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service in the amount of $51 million.  Together these grants will cover the cost of stakeholder involvement (consumer assistance and outreach and education), program integration, an IT system, and oversight and program integrity and business operations.

As promised by the enabling legislation passed in March of 2013, no state funds are being used to finance Your Health Idaho.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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