States use fed exchange workaround to prevent coverage gaps

As the technical snafus continue to plague the federal health insurance exchange, states are beginning to take steps to provide workaround solutions for their consumers.

In states like Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa--all of which are offering plans through the federal marketplace--officials are trying to help their residents avoid the pitfalls of the HealthCare.gov website by extending some existing insurance programs, building separate enrollment systems and implementing more protections for certain consumers, reported Politico.

The problem is if the federal government can't fix HealthCare.gov as promised by the end of November, consumers could be left uninsured before the individual mandate kicks in.

That's why Indiana already has spent millions of dollars to expand a "high-risk" insurance pool to guarantee 6,800 of its sickest residents are insured through January. The state intends to move these consumers from its program into the federal exchange so they can choose their own health plan.

"The State of Indiana will ensure that these Hoosiers, who are facing significant health care challenges, maintain their health coverage until the problems with the federal Marketplace are resolved," Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement. "While problems enrolling are an inconvenience to some, they could be a matter of life and death for these Hoosiers."

Similarly, Detroit officials have delayed for a month a shift into the federal exchange for about 7,500 early retirees. And in Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad is extending a farm bureau insurance program for 70,000 residents through 2014 and has worked with Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield to ensure health coverage for residents through next year, Politico noted.

And because Branstad expected some sort of technical difficulties on the federal exchange, he had the state build its own eligibility system for its lowest-income enrollees. Since these consumers are eligible for Medicaid, the separate eligibility process has let them avoid the tech problems on HealthCare.gov.

In California, meanwhile, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones reached an agreement with Blue Shield of California to delay cancellations for 130,000 members until March 31, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Politico article
- here's Gov. Pence's statement

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