On Oct. 1, the federally mandated health exchanges are slated to become operational and Americans will be able to enroll in individual insurance plans. Some states already have started to get the word out about plans, prices and procedures for their residents. Ohio insurance regulators have approved various plans but has done little to publicize the deals. Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who oversees the state insurance department, says it's the federal government's job to get the information to Ohioans. ideastream health reporter Sarah Jane Tribble asked Taylor to explain and tells you where to go for information now.
As marketing ramps up for the Affordable Care Act, Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor notes that Ohio sent a letter to federal regulators last November that "basically made it clear that we were going to allow the federal government to run the exchange in Ohio. So it's their responsibility to set up the infrastructure, um, which would be how they communicate with consumers here in Ohio it's their responsibility to make sure information with regard to premiums and the type of coverage available and what the options are for Ohio consumers. So in October when the open enrollment period starts the federal government is responsible for sitting up that structure and making sure the information is available to Ohio consumers.
Other states, particularly have released more detailed reports on the public filings of insurance companies. Taylor notes that her office is a regulator.
"So we don't market on behalf of any particular company regardless of the type of insurance that they sell in Ohio. It's not in our defined role or our responsibilities as defined by the Ohio law. Our responsibility is to make sure companies are submitting plans we understand the type of coverage they are offering, make sure the premiums they are proposing are actuarially sound and then we have a very robust consumer services division that then is responsible for taking calls from consumers to help them deal with some of the issues of challenges they have with a particular claim. But we don't market any particular product on behalf of any company in Ohio. That is not the role or the function of the department of insurance," she says.
And, she adds, it is not the function of the department of insurance to market the exchange.
"The federal government's running the exchange in Ohio. The federal government has allocated $685 million nationwide for their marketing campaign with regard to the exchange and so we presume that they understand the dollars available and also then believe that that is sufficient funds to market the exchange," Taylor says.
Taylor says that she believes that the public is lacking information. Her department does "get questions about where a consumer would go at this point to start gathering information from the feds with regard to products available in Ohio and we don't really have the information we would need to direct consumers if they happen to call our consumer services division. So, our hope is when the exchange is up and running starting Oct. 1 for the open enrollment period that information will be available to consumers."
When asked if she wanted the exchanges to work, Taylor notes that she has been "a vocal critic of Obamacare and one f the primary reasons is because of this Obamacare, the new mandates, the way it's driving up the cost of health insurance in Ohio for consumers and small business. It's bad for our state and it's bad for our consumers."
Taylor goes on to say that she would have preferred an approach that was created just for the Ohio market. But she also said that the insurance department will do its job to protect consumers who enroll in the exchange.
Taylor said she felt that the federal government has not done an adequate job in getting the word out to residents and she's not alone in that believe. People on both sides of the political fence have raised concerns that not enough is being done - especially in the Red states - to recruit enrollees to the individual market.
I spoke with a representative of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, which is charged with implementing the federally run exchanges, like the one in Ohio.
They were in Ohio earlier this month to promote the exchanges. She agreed that they are just now ramping up their marketing. About 200 people attended the event where they learned how the exchanges will work. They were also told consumers can go to www.healthcare.gov for information that applies to all states being run by the feds.
That's also where Ohioans will go to enroll on October 1.