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Reform Update: Federal exchange won't transfer Medicaid applications until November


By Steven Ross Johnson
Posted: October 15, 2013 - 3:45 pm ET
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(This story has been updated with a correction.)

Americans submitting their applications for Medicaid through the federal government's online insurance marketplace in 36 states may want to contact their state Medicaid agencies for faster results.

The CMS said Tuesday the online marketplace, HealthCare.gov, will not begin transferring applications to state Medicaid programs until Nov. 1.

Technical issues have been cited for the federal delay, which reportedly has occurred in the 36 states that opted to have the federal government fully or partly run their insurance exchange.

Millions of Americans will newly qualify for Medicaid coverage in January in the 26 states plus the District of Columbia that have approved the healthcare reform law's expansion of Medicaid eligibility to adults earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. In addition, lots of people who currently are eligible for Medicaid but have not signed up are expected to do so now. But the CMS said the problem will not affect their ability to enroll in Medicaid coverage effective Jan. 1.

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According to the CMS, the glitch will not cause a delay in coverage for those new enrollees.

“Starting on Oct. 1, HHS and states are ready for individuals to apply for and receive eligibility determinations for expanded Medicaid coverage that will begin Jan. 1,” said CMS spokeswoman Emma Sandoe in an e-mailed statement.

The glitch marks the latest in a series of technical issues experienced by users of the federal exchange site since its rollout Oct. 1. By contrast, the health exchanges being run by 14 states and the District of Columbia have reported fewer problems.

Medicaid enrollment numbers rise in Washington

Meanwhile, some state-run exchanges are reporting successes in signing up new Medicaid enrollees. Washington state's exchange says it has signed up about 25,000 new Medicaid enrollees in the state's expanded Medicaid program since the exchange opened Oct.1.

The Pacific Northwest Inlander reported Tuesday that enrollment numbers in Washington's state online exchange nearly tripled since last week.

The newspaper reports an additional 37,000 people have applied for private health coverage through the exchange.

In all, more than 29,000 Washington residents have completed enrollment, most of them consisting of people currently eligible for Medicaid as well as those who will become eligible under the state's expanded eligibility program.

The state exchange website reportedly received more than 5 million page views since its launch, which experienced technical problems during the first couple of days of operation.

Medicaid expansion one vote from passage in Ohio

After months of debate between state lawmakers over whether to expand Ohio's Medicaid program to adults earning up to 138% of the poverty level, the decision has been left in the hands of a seven-member legislative committee. News reports indicate the committee is now one vote shy of approving the Republican Gov. John Kasich's plan to expand the program.

Last week, Kasich sent the issue to the state's Controlling Board after efforts to get the GOP-controlled legislature to go along with his expansion plan failed.

The Board, made up of two Democrats, four Republicans and one Kasich appointee, is expected to vote this week on an expansion plan that would provide health coverage for more than 300,000 uninsured, low-income Ohioans. Hospital leaders are pushing hard for the expansion.

As of Tuesday, Kasich appeared to have three of the four votes needed for passage, with both Democrats and Controlling Board President Randy Cole, a Kasich appointee, in favor. Among the four Republican board members, three have said they will not vote for expansion while one, state Sen. Chris Widener, has been identified as the only GOP board member with any possibility of voting “yes.”

Republican lawmakers have remained steadfast in their disapproval to expand the program, with some expressing concern that the federal government will renege on its promise to fund 100% of the program for the first three years and 90% afterward, and others arguing it will increase government spending and expand a flawed government program.

New Hampshire state panel recommends Medicaid expansion

A special panel of lawmakers in New Hampshire on Tuesday reportedly voted unanimously to present a report to the legislature recommending that the state expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

Seacoastonline reported the panel recommended moving ahead with expansion, which would provide health coverage for an estimated 49,000 adults over the next seven years.

A minority of the panel recommended the state consider private insurance options for expanding coverage.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, supports expanding Medicaid but has faced opposition from the Republican-controlled state senate.

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHSjohnson

(This story has been updated to correct that Medicaid applicants will not have to reapply through their state programs.)


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