Idaho insurer to test Trump administration, rule of law by selling illegal plans

When Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (of course he’s a Republican) decided the best bet in a primary for his handpicked successor would be to blatantly break Obamacare law, plenty of observers scratched their heads, but weren’t sure it would go anywhere. Otter has issued rules in direct violation of the law that would allow insurers in the state to sell plans that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act.

Shockingly, Blue Cross of Idaho has decided to stick its toes into what is likely to be litigious waters. It’s going to start offering noncompliant plans.

Blue Cross of Idaho said Wednesday that it will offer insurance plans that don’t comply with some Affordable Care Act requirements. The “Freedom Blue” coverage is a way to give some people lower premiums upfront in exchange for less comprehensive coverage.

Others will pay more—the plans have limits on annual medical spending and will charge sicker people higher premiums or deny them coverage in some cases. Those policies are specifically forbidden by the 2010 law.

That, of course, will drive healthy people into these crappy plans and increase premium costs for the shrinking pool of not-so-healthy people who need good insurance. And. It’s. Against. The. Law. Which rarely bother Idaho Republicans who think “taking on the feds” is their job, never mind the Constitution and its Supremacy Clause and the Supreme Court of the United States. It’s the Idaho way.

And it’s putting the Trump administration on the spot, because if Idaho refuses to enforce the law as it is directed to in the ACA, and make insurers comply, then the Trump administration has to do it.

Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, was asked about the Idaho plans during a congressional hearing on Wednesday in Washington. He said he’d uphold the law, without indicating what specific actions he might take.

“There are rules and there’s a rule of law that we need to enforce,” Azar said at the hearing. An HHS spokesman said the department was monitoring the situation in Idaho.

We’ll see. They’ve been happy to invite legal challenges when it comes to the Medicaid statute, letting states impose work requirements on the program which stretches the law to the extreme. So the chances that they’ll really try to enforce the law here seem slim. Which Idaho and Blue Cross of Idaho seem to be banking on.