Officials: Obamacare exchange performance in New Hampshire improving
Ten weeks after launching, the federal health insurance exchange is working just about as well as expected, insurance industry experts in the state said yesterday.
That doesn’t mean expectations are particularly high, however.
The exchange is the federally operated website where people can shop for individual insurance plans. The site opened Oct. 1, but has been plagued by glitches and errors and has not been communicating with other systems involved, including those at state Medicaid offices and insurance companies.
Most of those connection issues have been fixed, officials said at yesterday’s meeting of the state Health Exchange Advisory Board.
“We had a pretty fundamental problem processing files in their entirety,” said Lisa Guertin, president of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Hampshire and chairwoman of the advisory board.
“That has been corrected. We can now take in the (file and) someone will be showing in the system unless there was a data problem in their specific application. . . . It was a global problem. The good news is at this point, if their record is complete and clean, we will be able to help the person. We should even be able to tell them if there was an error that kicked them back.”
People applying for health insurance through the exchange have until Dec. 31 to pay their first monthly premium to be covered as of Jan. 1. Anyone without health insurance by April 1 will face a tax penalty.
Guertin said it will be another week until her company can determine how many people in the state have applied for or purchased insurance plans through the exchange.
According to data released by the federal government earlier this week, 8,763 applications had been filed by New Hampshire residents by the end of November, potentially insuring 17,234 people.
The federal data showed that 1,200 applications were due to be transferred to the state Medicaid office because the applicant seemed eligible for the program.
A state Medicaid official said at yesterday’s meeting her office is waiting for 1,800 such applications to be transferred, and no officials at the meeting could explain the 600-application discrepancy.
“I was impressed they were that close,” said Guertin.
Anthem is the only health insurance company selling plans on the marketplace for 2014, but two other companies have announced they want to join the field for 2015.
The Massachusetts-based nonprofit Minuteman Health cooperative announced Thursday it will seek approval to sell plans in the state for 2015.
And at yesterday’s meeting, Beth Roberts, a senior vice president at Harvard Pilgrim, confirmed that her company will also be seeking approval.
Both companies still have a long road to tread before they join Anthem in the marketplace, said Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny.
Minuteman in particular has several hurdles to cross as it is not yet licensed as an insurer in the state, he said.
“The most important job I perform is to make sure the companies you do business with, whether it’s your health insurer or your home insurer or your auto insurer, have money to pay claims in the future,” he said. “I don’t want a company to come in and give all this hope and then not be able to pay claims.”
After being licensed, the companies will have to develop a network of contracted medical providers and submit the plans to Sevigny’s department for review. Sevigny’s office will then be able to make a recommendation to the federal agency overseeing the exchange, since New Hampshire is not operating its own site.
Those steps will likely be completed before the end of June 2014, insurance officials said yesterday.
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)