Today’s New York Times follows on a previous report by The Washington Post on a glitch involving the eligibility and enrollment process in state exchange marketplaces operated by the federal government. According to The Times, the federal website HealthCare.gov that serves as the online enrollment portal in those states is currently unable to electronically transfer applications to state Medicaid offices for individual plan applicants whose incomes qualify them for Medicaid under the guidelines established by their states.
That’s a serious issue for a couple of reasons. The exchanges are intended to operate as a single, integrated marketplace for both subsidized commercial insurance plans (referred to as Qualified Health Plans or QHPs) and Medicaid. The idea is affording people a single source for coverage regardless of household income makes it easier to enroll, thereby reducing the number of medically uninsured individuals. However The Times story notes under the current circumstance, those determined eligible for Medicaid will have to make a separate application though their state Medicaid offices, adding another step that could discourage enrollment.
Second, the glitch is problematic for QHPs that offer both commercial health plans as well as Medicaid managed care plans since it could deter initial enrollment of Medicaid eligibles in these plans. According to an issue brief (.pdf) by the Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP), QHP issuers in 33 states and the District of Columbia have both commercial and Medicaid managed care plans, with 39 percent operating Medicaid plans in the same state. Having both commercial and Medicaid plans in the same state exchange marketplace could help reduce administrative costs and coverage gaps when enrollees’ incomes fluctuate across income guidelines for commercial and Medicaid plans, the ACAP brief notes.
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