Bill Cutting UI Tax Rates Sent to Governor

Date: January 28, 2018

Affordable health care solution getting national attention

State Director Suzanne Budge reports from the State Capitol on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending January 26

H335, the first bill of the 2018 session, was sent to the Gov. Butch Otter following unanimous approval by both House and Senate. The bill, cutting unemployment insurance rates, is projected to save businesses $115 million over three years and will be retroactive to January 1, 2018.

NFIB State Director Suzanne Budge testified in support of the bill, which is expected to reduce unemployment taxes by 30 percent. Fast-tracked for early passage, the legislation lowers the fund size multiplier (part of the formula to determine what employers ultimately pay) from 1.5 to 1.3. The rate change maintains adequate reserves in the UI fund, which has more than $700 million and is on track to be above and beyond what the federal government recommends, starting in 2018.

Health Care

Health Care Insurance and proposals to deliver care to more Idahoans continued to be the focus of policy-makers as the Legislature entered the third week of the session. Governor Otter has put forward complementary proposals being pitched to legislators now by the directors of the Department of Health and Welfare and the Department of Insurance. The proposals seek to address concerns over soaring health costs and lack of access to affordable coverage.

The Governor’s proposal for “state-based plans” received national focus as The Hill, The Wall Street Journal, and other national news outlets took note of the governor’s initiative to provide state-based plans, essentially challenging the federal requirements of Obamacare. Closer to home, a recent public opinion survey by Boise State University, showed that Idahoans share NFIB member’s concerns about the rising cost of health insurance. Like NFIB members, those surveyed choose affordability over comprehensive benefits when it comes to insurance plans. The BSU survey showed that three-fourths of respondents agreed that Idaho policymakers should create an Idaho solution for affordable health insurance plans.

The Idaho Department of Insurance released guidelines for the new state-based plans at a January 24 presentation. The guidelines come nearly three weeks after Governor Otter and Lt Governor Brad Little jointly signed Executive Order 2018-02 on January 5, which directed the Department of Insurance to seek ways to provide more affordable insurance coverage to individuals in the Idaho market.

On January 24, the department released their guidelines for the new plans, which do not comply with Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements. Bulletin No. 18-01 was addressed to health-insurance carriers in Idaho’s individual market, under the subject “Provisions for Health Carriers Submitting State-Based Health Benefit Plans.”

In the memo, the Department of Insurance outlined provisions that will be required for new health plans to comply with Idaho Code, Title 41, Chapter 52. “State-Based health benefit plans” or “state-based plans” will not be subject to the federal restrictions applied to “grandfathered” or “transitional” plans. The department projects 30-60 percent lower premiums under the new plans.

Medicaid Gap Population

An informational hearing on a dual waiver strategy, which would allow Idahoans in the Medicaid gap to receive federal premium support for purchasing of private health insurance plans, was held by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. The goal is to extend low-cost coverage to 35,000 people in the Medicaid gap.

One waiver would move a few hundred individuals with high health-care costs onto Medicaid, with the goal of pushing down premiums in the private insurance market. Essentially expanding the state high-risk pool, the waiver would move 2,500 to 3,500 people with high-cost conditions, onto the Medicaid rolls.

Prior Reports, News Releases, Editorials, Testimony

January 19 Report—Unemployment Insurance Rate Cut on Fast Track for Passage

January 12 Report—Idaho Legislature Returns to Business

January 5 Testimony—NFIB Idaho Testifies on the Small-Business Economy

December 20, 2017, News Release—Poll of Small-Business Owners a Guide for 2018 Legislature

[Tile photo courtesy of the official website of the Idaho Legislature]

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