On the Public Health Insurance Marketplaces: Developments Weeks of 8/5 and 8/12

August 21, 2013

As states across the country prepare for the opening of state- or federally-run health insurance exchanges on October 1st, most are gearing up with education and advertising campaigns to inform consumers of their options. To further aid consumers, the Department of Health and Human Services recently granted $67 million to nonprofits and other groups and organizations embedded in communities to train “navigators” to help consumers evaluate and select health insurance plans. Meanwhile, insurance carriers continue to evaluate the benefits of submitting plans to the public exchanges, with some carriers opting out as the October deadline draws nearer.

The State Exchange Table continues to provide the latest information on carrier participation and plan rates.

Latest Developments:

State Run Exchanges-

California: Covered California signed contracts with 12 insurance providers, among them the four largest carriers in the state  — Anthem, Health Net Inc., Kaiser Permanente, and Blue Cross. Ventura County Health Care Plan (VCHCP) has opted not to participate in the state-run marketplace for the first plan year, but Covered California said it would consider a bid from the carrier in 2015 should it choose to submit one. For more on the background of VCHCP’s decision, click here.

Colorado: On August 16th, the Colorado Department of Insurance (DOI) released final plan rates for its state-run healthcare exchange, Connect For Health Colorado. Eighteen insurance carriers offering 541 plans have been approved to offer coverage to individuals, families and small businesses. Plans will be available both on and off the exchange. For a more detailed breakdown of the rates, see the Colorado DOI’s official summary.

Connecticut: Health insurance provider Aetna withdrew its proposal to participate in Access Health CT. Despite its initial plan to offer coverage under the state exchange, the company announced its decision to withdraw on August 5th, citing price reduction requests by state officials. “Unfortunately, we believe the modifications to the rates filed by Aetna will not allow us to collect enough premiums to cover the cost of the plans and meet the service expectations of our customers,” said an Aetna spokesperson.

DC: The District of Columbia awarded $375,000 to the local Planned Parenthood branch, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington DC, to help individuals navigate the new healthcare exchange marketplace and to enroll in a plan. Planned Parenthood was one of 35 organizations selected to be trained and allocated funding to become “DC Health Link Assisters,” as part of DC’s state-run exchange DC Health Link.

Idaho: Idaho governor C.L. Otter confirmed that the state would be running its own health insurance exchange, despite previous discussion of participating in the federally-run exchange. “We have decided to build and operate a voluntary, state-based health insurance exchange rather than defaulting to total federal control,” said Governor Otter.  The state recently received a $20.3 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the state-based exchange.

Kentucky: Gov. Steve Beshear announced that individuals, families, and small businesses will have access to 60 representatives (slated to be scaled up to 100 representatives by October 1st) via a call center based out of Lexington as a part of Kynect, Kentucky’s state-run health insurance exchange. Phone support will supplement online and in-person assistance, according to a promotional video on the http://kynect.ky.gov/ website.

Minnesota: Minnesota has taken a creative approach to informing its residents about MNSure, its state-run health insurance exchange, using two characters from popular mythology, Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox, to spread the message. Short PSAs feature Paul and Babe getting into mishaps, illustrating the campaign’s tagline “10,000 reasons to get health insurance.” This campaign is aimed at the approximately 1 million Minnesotans currently without health insurance, who will eligible to enroll in MNSure starting October 1st.

New Mexico: The New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange board selected BVK, a Wisconsin-based public relations firm, to handle marketing the state’s health insurance exchange to the state’s approximately 83,000 uninsured residents. According to some estimates, the contract with BVK could reach as high as $7.7 million.

New York: New York recently announced the name of its new healthcare exchange, NY State of Health, playing on the popular 1976 Billy Joel song “New York State of Mind.”   “We wanted a name that was distinctive and unique to New York and is emotional and not just functional description,” said Leo Mamorsky, executive group account director with DDB New York  which is handling advertising  for the exchange.  Creating a strong incentive for individuals to enroll in the new, state-run exchange, state officials also announced that average monthly premium rates would be approximately half the price of premiums for individuals today who buy their own insurance.

Rhode Island: Rhode Island has opted to offer health insurance to its residents through its own state-run exchange, HealthSource RI. One of the biggest carriers participating in the program, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, recently partnered with Walgreens pharmacy in a statewide education campaign, providing information about the law and how enrollment will work.

Washington: Washington state has garnered some criticism recently for rejecting five plans offered by insurers under the new state-run exchange, Washington Health Benefit Exchange.  It also approved 4 new plans, but there are concerns that the total of 31 plans approved will provide insufficient competition and result in higher costs for low income populations in the state.  State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says of the plans, “They’re quality plans with good benefits. More people will be able to get covered than ever before and the plans are higher quality and offer better value.”

Federally Facilitated Exchanges-

Alaska: Two Alaskan non-profit organizations have been granted $300,000 each as part of the federal Navigator program. The grants are allocated for training Navigators to help uninsured populations understand health insurance exchanges and enroll in plans.  In Alaska, The United Way of Anchorage and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium will be responsible for helping populations navigate the new system in urban and rural areas respectively.

Kansas: State officials encourage insurance agents and brokers to complete an online training course that will allow them to sell insurance. “If they want to sell on the individual marketplace and be paid commissions on those sales, they have to go through the training,” said Linda Sheppard, director of health care policy and analysis at the Kansas Insurance Department. Agents and brokers must complete the free training in order to gain access to the approximately 326,885 uninsured and eligible Kansans, come the October 1st enrollment date.

Montana: State officials released prices for health insurance under the federally-run exchange.  As a reference point, “rates show that a 30-year-old could buy plans varying in cost from about $200 a month to $300 a month.”  Rates vary depending on the cost of deductibles and copays under plans offered by three insurance carriers in the state, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana, PacificSource and the Montana Health CO-OP.

North Carolina: Despite continued confusion about the options to be offered under the federally-run health insurance exchange in October, North Carolina has announced a widespread outreach effort to inform its residents of their available options for health insurance coverage.  “It would be a shame to have people who want health insurance and didn’t realize it was available to them,” said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Outreach to include implementation of a $7.1 million federal grant to 36 organizations to train navigators.

Texas: Texas received $10.8 million as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the Affordable Care Act’s “navigator” program, with $580,000 designated for the Migrant Health Promotion, a nonprofit described as providing culturally-appropriate health education and outreach and sustainable community development to migrant populations. Texas opted out of a state-run exchange, so health insurance will be offered to their residents via a federally-run exchange starting October 1st.

Utah: Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Utah will no longer be an offering in the state’s small business health insurance exchange, a program known as Avenue H.  The carrier declined to state why it opted out of the exchange, which is run by the state.  The individual exchange, by contrast, is run by the federal government.  Back in May 2013, Utah was the first state to be approved for this dual method of coverage.


[photo credit: Exchange Decisions By State http://obamacarefacts.com/state-health-insurance-exchange.php]

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