BOISE -- Idaho is less than three months from the mandated deadline for setting up the Health Insurance Exchange. That's the state-run program which will essentially be an online marketplace to shop for and buy policies, which are now required.
October 1st is essentially the grand opening. However, there is still some work to be done.
Some of it is technical -- getting the website up.
Some of it is practical -- actually getting the plan options solidified.
And a lot of it is outreach -- trying to explain to Idahoans what they must do, come October.
In a way, Idaho Health Insurance Exchange officials say the state was set up behind the pack, as Idaho's lawmakers only approved the legislation to set up the exchange in late March.
So, while some other states like Oregon, California, and Nevada have websites up and more details hashed out, Idaho does not.
Basically where some states have had more time to work on it, the enabling legislation actually came down, and we have until October 1st, said Jody Olson with the Idaho Health Insurance Exchange. We are fortunate in a way in that we can gleen from some of the other states that have gone ahead of us and take some of their best practices and tailor it to what's important for Idahoans.
Some of what Idaho will need to do differently, is in letting people know what the exchange is, and how to use it.
Idaho is actually unique in that it's a rural state. And so we have some challenges in getting our message out to some of the much smaller communities where there may not be as big a media presence or a cable presence, so we're looking at how we do that, said Olson.
The exchange just awarded a $200,000, six-week contract to Gallitan Public Affairs to do that work -- from the website to educational materials.
And as for the deadline -- it's a federal requirement for every state to be finished by then -- even with a late start.
We're still all going to be on square one on October 1st, said Olson. Even though they may have their website a little bit ahead of us. Even though they may have call center activities in place, October 1st we're all on square one. October 1st is the day that first person can go online and purchase an insurance product.
October 1st will begin the enrollment process and policies will go into effect on January 1st.
Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone is required to have insurance next year or be fined up to $95. That amount will increase each year.
Once the website is up -- anyone in Idaho, whether insured or not -- will be able to enter information and compare policies, and see if they can get government assistance.
The average policy, according to the exchange board, will be around $240.
The actual amount will depend on factors like income and age.