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Former health secretary who implemented ACA comes to Idaho

Two former secretaries of the U.S. Health and Human Services came to southeastern Idaho Wednesday to discuss the past and future of health care in the state with industry workers and providers.

Five years ago, Kathleen Sebelius led the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. At the Idaho Healthcare Summit, she’s trying to help solve issues in that same act.

The point of the conference was to introduce professionals who typically compete with each other. Attendees ranged from physicians to insurance brokers.

“Collaboration is the success skill of the 21st century because health care works in a network,” said Mike Leavitt, who served as secretary of Health and Human Services during George W. Bush’s second term. “Collaboration is a required component of successful networks.”

The conference examined health care issues nationally and at a practical level for Idaho. Both Sebelius and Leavitt mentioned the current U.S. Supreme Court case challenging ACA subsidies.

Sebelius is confident the subsidies will not go away.

“This was a national program set up nationally,” she said. “As somebody who implemented the law, we had every opportunity to say to governors along the way, ‘Oh, by the way, if you don’t set up a state-based exchange, you will not have subsidies.'”

Continuing on subsidies, many people ended up having to pay theirs back to the government this year. Sebelius said it was because of miscalculations.

She said, “They look at their tax returns from last year and they speculate about their income for next year. That’s what their subsidy is based on and what’s happening now is an adjustment in their taxes.”

Medicaid expansion is another major issue, since Idaho and several other states have yet to implement it. It would provide coverage for low-income adults over 65.

Sebelius said politics within individual states is preventing expansion.

Over 350 people attended the conference at the Shoshone-Bannock Event Center. The conference also included Anthony Shelley, a leading ACA attorney.

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