Low income may be reason for lots of health exchange signups in Idaho

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- Per capita, Idaho is the state with the second most signups for government health care. The only state with more signups per capita is Vermont.

When asked why Idaho's been so successful, Jody Olson, spokeswoman for Your Health Idaho says she believes it's because Idaho has its own exchange rather than using the federal government's system. She says local insurance representatives have been able to get out into communities and help answer questions and assist Idahoans in the signup process. Olson says fixed glitches on the site also help.

But of the 32,899 people who have signed up in the Gem State, 91-percent are those who qualify for government subsidy. Experts say that's because Idaho has a huge number of people who aren't making enough money.

"With median income now at a little over $11.00 an hour, that puts so many of our citizens right in the middle of the subsidy," said Dick Armstrong, Director of Idaho Health and Welfare.

With the break that comes from the subsidy, health care is very affordable for low-income Idahoans.

But what about people who don't qualify for an insurance tax break? They make up only nine-percent of those who have registered.

Olson says they're not always guaranteed a cheaper deal with the exchange.

"Until you go on and shop and compare and choose, you're really not going to know," Olson told KBOI.

She says everyone's different. And while some may get better deals through the exchange, some may pay more than if they just stick with their current plan.

But even if you're not getting a big break, Armstrong says the program could still help you out. He says prior to Your Health Idaho, the state footed the bill for uninsured people who needed medical help but couldn't afford it.

"It may benefit us as taxpayers because it really moves some of that risk from Idaho's general fund to the Federal Treasury," Armstrong said.