Federal health exchange site raises questions
On Monday at midnight, officials were set to unveil the federal health insurance marketplace portion of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, despite threats of a federal government shutdown that loomed throughout the week.
Roughly 95 percent of MSU students report they already have health insurance, likely because of the ACA provision allowing them to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26, said Kathi Braunlich, communications manager for MSU Student Health Services.
But that leaves a couple thousand uninsured students who might be interested in checking out the new exchange, she said. Braunlich encourages them to compare plans on the exchange to the MSU Student Insurance Plan.
“At Olin Health Center, we see students every week that end up hospitalized and never expected it,” Braunlich said. “A few days of in-patient care for mental illness can be several thousand dollars. A trip to the emergency room by ambulance will likely be well over $1,000, even if they don’t get admitted to the hospital,” she continued.
News outlets as recently as the end of last week were cautioning that some of the exchanges might not be operational for weeks or months, with programmers and testers working out kinks for various exchange sites.
The federal health insurance marketplace was planned to launch midnight on Oct. 1 despite concerns throughout the week over a government shutdown.
About 95 percent of MSU students already have health insurance, but university officials estimate a couple thousand students don’t.
Students are able to log onto healthcare.gov to explore their options on the federal health exchange marketplace.
An estimated 200,000 Michigan residents might use the health exchange, although anyone can log on and compare policy prices to their current coverage.
SOURCE: FED. health exchange
At a briefing Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the sites will be “ready to go.”
For Michigan, the health exchange is a federally-administered website offering a comprehensive list of available health insurance plans, allowing people to compare policy prices and find out if they qualify for new federal subsidies to afford coverage required next year under the ACA.
Most experts expect mostly those with pre-existing conditions to sign up on the exchange, the majority of whom aren’t particularly young.
That’s a problem for insurance providers, who depend on young and healthy people to “spread risk.” In other words, without people buying insurance who don’t actually have many medical procedures or use expensive medications, companies could lose money and potentially fold.
The goal is to get both healthy and unhealthy people to buy coverage, said Stacey Hettiger, director of medical and regulatory policy for the Michigan State Medical Society.
Hettiger said everyone in the industry is waiting to see if young people sign up. Many are concerned they won’t.
“There’s no doubt that this is all kind of predicated on getting buy-ins from young people in the country,” said Caleb Buhs, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services. “It helps spread the risk for insurance companies. It’s important for young people to at least explore their options.”
More broadly, stakeholders wonder who and how many will use the exchange in general, said Rick Murdock, executive director of the Michigan Association of Health Plans.
“Right now, we just have broad details,” Murdock said.
In Michigan, he estimated roughly 200,000 people — the remainder of the uninsured not covered by Medicaid expansions — might use the exchange.
Murdock said the majority of users likely will be those without any insurance, though current policy holders can look online for cheaper coverage.