Get Covered Illinois, the state health insurance exchange formed under Obamacare, is cutting staff as it heads into its third year with less federal money than in previous years.
The staff was notified today that their positions will be eliminated as of July 31, according to a Get Covered Illinois employee, who asked not to be identified because he will work there until the end of the month. Only three people in leadership roles will remain, including executive director Karin Zosel, who came on board in March. The layoffs affect more than a dozen employees, as well as a few vacant positions.
Get Covered Illinois is funded by federal grants, not state dollars.
“Get Covered Illinois continues to operate its exchange as a State Partnership model,” Jose Munoz, chief marketing officer of Get Covered Illinois, said in a statement. “Entering year three, we will be operating with less federal funding than in previous years and have reduced our staffing levels. Get Covered Illinois remains committed to offering education and enrollment assistance to Illinois Consumers. Our call center continues to be available 6 days a week to assist with enrollment questions and to connect consumers with navigators, agents, brokers and other free enrollment specialists.”
State officials did not respond to questions about the size of its annual budget and staffing.
Zosel started two months after Republican Bruce Rauner took office after unseating Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who launched the exchange.
The layoffs come on the heels of a crucial U.S. Supreme Court decision in June. That decision allows consumers in states like Illinois, which don't directly sell insurance policies, to continue to route them to the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov. There, they can use federal subsidies to buy health plans, the point of contention in the lawsuit. Illinois is among 37 states that use the federal platform to allow residents to buy health insurance.
The Illinois exchange launched in 2013 as an online marketplace born out of federal health reform. The idea was to create a competitive marketplace where consumers and small businesses could shop for health insurance.
The Illinois Department of Insurance has been awarded more than $150 million in federal grants to operate the exchange, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based nonprofit that tracks the implementation of federal health reform.
Enrollment on the Illinois exchange surged this year, the second year of the exchange, to 349,467 people. That's a roughly 60 percent increase from the first year of the exchange.
The federal government today released new data that for the first time breaks down by county demographic data on who bought plans on the exchange. In Cook County this year, 41 percent of Obamacare enrollees are white and about 10 percent each are black, Latino or Asian. The race of about 29 percent of enrollees is unknown.
So-called “young invincibles,” ages 18 to 34, made up 31 percent of the Cook County enrollees. This group is considered key to balancing out older, sicker people. Enrollees up to 44 years old made up 54 percent of the marketplace. The largest age group of enrollees in Cook County, where 157,223 plans were sold this year, were aged 55 to 64.