On October first, Ohioans can begin to look at insurance options on the new health care exchanges. As Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, the head of Ohio’s Department of Insurance predicts there will be problems, but an advocate for the federal health care plan says this will open doors for more than a million Ohioans.
Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor is outspoken when it comes to Obamacare. She thinks the program has many flaws. And she’s not optimistic that it will work well for Ohio. In fact, she says there’s a good chance the computer system to sign up for coverage will crash on its first day. Taylor says there were already problems earlier this year when states had to submit information on deadline.
"We had instances where some of those plans sat in a queue for the federal government for a week, " she says. "So my concern is something similar is going to happen on October first because of the amount of traffic trying to access that system. We experienced it as regulators all across the country, not just Ohio, we all experienced those types of problems and of course that makes what we are doing harder."
Taylor says Ohioans who go to shop for insurance on the new exchanges will find their choices are limited. "In Ohio we had 60 companies in the private market selling insurance. We have 12 on the individual exchange so there will be less choice. From a company perspective, we know that Aetna and United are not selling on the exchange, two of Ohio’s largest carriers."
Taylor says many Ohioans are going to find themselves paying more than they thought for coverage they might not even want. And when it comes to finding trained navigators who can help them make decisions about coverage, Taylor says there is likely to be another problem.
"We don’t have navigators yet certified in Ohio so we can’t really direct them to call a navigator at this point.," she says. "We are still waiting on getting those certificates out by next week when the exchange kicks off, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen."
Cathy Levine with the Ohio Consumers for Health Care coverage says It doesn’t matter that there are no certified navigators yet because there are applications counselors getting trained all over the state to assist people with enrollment. She says health organizations and hospitals are ready to sign people up for coverage. And while she’s not willing to guarantee there won’t be some questions or problems in the beginning, she’s not worried there will be problems getting people enrolled by the deadline.
"They don’t have to sign up on the first," Levine says. "They have to sign up by December 15th in order for coverage to begin on January 1st of 2014 so people have two and a half months to sign up. If there are glitches in the system in the first few weeks, people will eventually get signed up and be ready for new options on January first."
Levine says when it comes to options, it’s important to remember that more than a million Ohioans don’t have health insurance right now, primarily because they can’t afford it. She says the options available to these Ohioans who sign up on the health care exchange will be plentiful. "People who today do not have access to affordable coverage will have access and many choices on the health exchange."
There’s one group of people at this point who still don’t know what their options might be. About 275,000 low income Ohioans would be eligible to enroll in Medicaid if the state approves Medicaid expansion. But that’s a big “if” right now. While Governor Kasich, Democrats and leading business organizations want that option to be provided, the Republican controlled Ohio legislature has not passed it. Many of those lawmakers are looking at Medicaid reform instead. And in the meantime, some other Ohioans are taking steps to put the issue on the ballot next year if lawmakers don’t expand Medicaid soon.