Consumers in Kansas, like those across the nation, are getting ready for the next open enrollment period on the health insurance marketplace. Enrollment for 2015 coverage starts Nov. 15, 2014, and runs through Feb. 15, 2015.
Better experience for Kansans
Expect a much better experience on HealthCare.gov, the enrollment website used by Kansans, this fall. Announcements on the HHS news release site show a slate of new executive leaders on board to drive the improvements, including Kevin Counihan as CEO and Andy Slavitt to lead day-to-day operations. Counihan most recently led Connecticut’s successful Obamacare exchange. He helped launched the Massachusetts Health Connector in 2006, and he has an extensive background in the health insurance industry. Before taking on his role with CMS, Slavitt was group executive vice president at Optum, the division of UnitedHealth Group brought it in fix HealthCare.gov. While Slavitt cautions that 2015 enrollment will have bumps, the website will be much improved.
Below average enrollment in 2014
During the first open enrollment period, 57,013 Kansans enrolled in qualified health plans and nearly 14,000 people qualified for either Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) under existing eligibility criteria according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In all, about one in five of those Kansans eligible signed up for private insurance — lower than the national average of 28 percent.
Among Kansas residents selecting a QHP, 85 percent qualified for financial assistance. Nineteen percent of Kansans selected a bronze plan (20 percent nationally), 60 percent selected a silver plan (65 percent nationally), 16 percent selected a gold plan (9 percent nationally), 2 percent selected a platinum plan (5 percent nationally) and 4 percent selected a catastrophic plan (2 percent nationally). Thirty-one percent of Kansas enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34.
You may have heard that Kansas actually saw its uninsured rate increase from 2013 to 2014 according to a widely publicized Gallup survey. The validity of the Kansas results have been questioned by both Gallup and Kansas insurance experts, and the survey error range for lower population states was plus/minus 5 points.
How much will insurance cost in 2015?
Premiums for 2015 have not yet announced for plans participating in the Kansas marketplace, but a preliminary evaluation by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that insurers requested an average increase of 15.5 percent for plans sold both on and off the exchange.
The ACA requires states to disclose and solicit consumer comments for any requested increase above 10 percent. The Kansas Insurance Department website includes a page for this purpose, but 2015 rate requests for marketplace plans were not available as of mid-October.
Five insurers participating in 2015 exchange
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Solutions, an HMO and a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, is joining the marketplace in time for the upcoming open enrollment period. The new entrants joins four other insurance companies that participated in the exchange in 2014: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Blue Cross of Kansas City, Coventry Life and Health, and Coventry Health Care of Kansas.
Health care reform: Looking ahead
Medicaid expansion will likely be the focus of health care reform efforts in Kansas heading into 2015.
Kansas decided against expanding its Medicaid program, which is called KanCare, despite a December 2013 poll that found 72 percent of registered Kansans voters favored expansion. While other Republican governors proceeded with Medicaid expansion, Brownback remained opposed — as did the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature, which didn’t act on Medicaid expansion in 2014.
The Kansas Hospital Association continues to advocate for expansion, and the organization announced it is drafting a proposal for legislative consideration in 2015. Other health-related organizations may also weigh in.
A recent Urban Institute report shows Kansas missing out on $5.3 billion in federal funding and hospitals losing $2.6 billion in Medicaid reimbursement.
How Kansas approached marketplace implementation
Kansas opted to use HealthCare.gov rather than implement a state-run marketplace. The decision against a Kansas-run exchange came despite the efforts of Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and some initial support from Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback, while critical of the Affordable Care Act, initially supported Praeger’s exchange planning efforts.
However, Brownback grew less and less supportive over time. In August 2011, Brownback returned a federal grant intended to help the state develop technical infrastructure for running the exchange. The return of the grant effectively quashed a state-run exchange, so Praeger began recommending state-federal partnership as a way for the state to retain some control.
In November 2012, Brownback announced that the state would default to a federally operated exchange, issuing a statement that said in part, “My administration will not partner with the federal government to create a state-federal partnership insurance exchange because we will not benefit from it and implementing it could costs Kansas taxpayers millions of dollars.”
During the 2014 legislative session, Kansas lawmakers debated a bill (SB 362) that would have subjected anyone who wanted to serve as a navigator to requirements above and beyond those at the federal level. Kansas navigators would have been subjected to criminal background checks, been fingerprinted, required to disclose their credit histories, and charged an annual $100 registration fee. The bill would have also prohibited navigators from recommending a specific insurance policy for a consumer. The bill passed the Senate, but didn’t get out of committee in the House.
Kansas health insurance exchange links
State Exchange Profile: Kansas
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Kansas’ progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Kansas Insurance Department, Consumer Assistance Division
Assists consumers who have purchased insurance on the individual market or who have insurance through an employer who only does business in Kansas.
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