Indiana Officials Don’t Trust Feds to Get Obamacare Site Working

The state is spending millions to extend coverage into next year for consumers with advanced medical conditions.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) listens at the unvieling of the republican's Pledge to America at the Tart Lumber Company in Sterling, Virginia, September 23, 2010.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
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Clara Ritger
Nov. 11, 2013, 5:10 a.m.

In­di­ana has ex­ten­ded cov­er­age for the state’s high-risk pool through Jan. 31, 2014, be­cause of con­cern that Health­Care.gov will pre­vent Hoo­siers with ad­vanced med­ic­al con­di­tions from sign­ing up for health in­sur­ance by Jan. 1.

Roughly 6,800 in­di­vidu­als are covered by the In­di­ana Com­pre­hens­ive Health In­sur­ance As­so­ci­ation, the state pool for res­id­ents with sig­ni­fic­ant med­ic­al needs.

The move will cost the state $6.3 mil­lion. The state gov­ern­ment will mon­it­or the Health­Care.gov fixes to as­sess if cov­er­age needs to be ex­ten­ded bey­ond Jan. 31, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease.

Christy De­nault, spokes­wo­man for Re­pub­lic­an Gov. Mike Pence, said in­di­vidu­als in the high-risk pool of­ten can’t pay for their ser­vices without the as­sist­ance of health in­sur­ance, and some had ex­pressed con­cerns that they could not sched­ule doc­tors’ ap­point­ments for next year without know­ing if they would be covered.

“The state of In­di­ana will en­sure that these Hoo­siers, who are fa­cing sig­ni­fic­ant health care chal­lenges, main­tain their health cov­er­age un­til the prob­lems with the fed­er­al Mar­ket­place are re­solved,” Pence said in a press re­lease. “While prob­lems en­rolling are an in­con­veni­ence to some, they could be a mat­ter of life and death for these Hoo­siers.”

In­di­ana is not con­sid­er­ing a cov­er­age pro­tec­tion for oth­er con­sumers fa­cing a po­ten­tial gap in cov­er­age, such as those re­ceiv­ing can­cel­la­tion no­tices, at this time, De­nault said.

In­di­ana’s In­sur­ance Com­mis­sion­er Steve Robertson sent a let­ter to Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us re­quest­ing as­sur­ance that people would be able to en­roll for cov­er­age that be­gins Feb. 1, 2014, the date when the state’s high-risk pool would need in­sur­ance.

Ju­lie Ba­taille, spokes­wo­man for the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices — the HHS agency re­spons­ible for im­ple­ment­ing the fed­er­al ex­change — has told the press on mul­tiple oc­ca­sions that Health­Care.gov would be run­ning smoothly for “the vast ma­jor­ity of users” by Nov. 30. For people seek­ing cov­er­age that be­gins Jan. 1, the dead­line to en­roll is Dec. 15.

De­nault said Robertson has not re­ceived a reply from Se­beli­us.

The state op­ted to al­low the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to run its in­sur­ance ex­change, she said, be­cause es­tim­ates showed it would cost $50 mil­lion each year to op­er­ate. Des­pite the prob­lems fa­cing Health­Care.gov, tak­ing the reins on the pro­ject isn’t an op­tion for the state.

“Hoo­si­er tax­pay­ers shouldn’t be ex­pec­ted to now foot the bill for a state-based ex­change simply be­cause the rol­lout of the fed­er­al mar­ket­place has been dif­fi­cult,” De­nault wrote in an email.

Some states run­ning their own ex­changes have faced prob­lems. Hawaii, for in­stance, launched its portal two weeks late, and Ore­gon’s web­site is so dys­func­tion­al the state is dir­ect­ing con­sumers to a 20-page ap­plic­a­tion.

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