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Health chief doesn’t tip hand on Idaho ObamaCare plan

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Health chief doesn't tip hand on Idaho ObamaCare plan

An Idaho official says Trump administration officials did not give him an indication on whether they are going to block his state’s controversial move to get around ObamaCare rules after a meeting Saturday.

Idaho insurance commissioner Dean Cameron and Gov. Butch Otter (R) met with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to discuss the state’s plan. Democrats are pressing Azar to step in and enforce ObamaCare’s rules, saying that Idaho’s move is plainly illegal.

Cameron told The Hill on Tuesday that Azar did not say whether he would block the state’s move, but did say that he needs to uphold the law.

“The Secretary was very clear he had taken an oath of office and he intends on following the law,” Cameron said.

At issue is Idaho’s move last month to allow insurers to sell plans that don’t meet ObamaCare requirements. The new plans would be able to charge people with pre-existing conditions and exclude coverage of certain services. Idaho argues the plans would be cheaper and are needed to stabilize the market and bring back healthy people.

“We tried to explain to them why we thought we were in the parameters of the law,” Cameron said.

He pointed to language in the Affordable Care Act that says states must “substantially enforce” the law. He argued that the state’s proposed changes are close enough to the law’s requirements that they still qualify as “substantially” enforcing it.

Some observers say they think HHS could reject Idaho’s move, but instead tout a Trump administration move to allow a different kind of skimpier, cheaper plan, known as short-term plans.

HHS mentioned the short-term plans in a statement on the meeting.

Azar “expressed empathy with the challenges that states such as Idaho face with ObamaCare and highlighted the importance of the recently announced HHS proposed regulation that seeks to provide choice and competition through short-term, limited duration plans,” an HHS spokesperson said.

Cameron said both he and the governor have been in touch with officials from other states who are interested in making similar moves but are waiting to see whether HHS blocks Idaho’s move.

“They’re all waiting to see what happens,” Cameron said.

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