By Louise Norris
March 31, 2014
Open enrollment in Wyoming ends on March 31. But HHS is allowing an extension for applicants who begin the process by that date, but are unable to complete their enrollment by the end of the day on March 31. The extension is expected to be valid until mid-April, and applicants will have to attest to the fact that they tried to enroll by March 31 but were unable to finish because of technical problems or other extenuating circumstances.
By March 1, 6,838 people had finalized their private plan selection in the Wyoming exchange – an increase of more than 1,500 people since the beginning of February. An additional 1,646 exchange applicants had been found to be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP after five months of open enrollment. The total private plan enrollment was the sixth lowest in the country, but Wyoming has the smallest population in the US.
Originally, the federal projection was that Wyoming would have 13,000 private plan enrollees by March 31. That has been revised to around 10,000, and officials are optimistic that a March surge in application volume will put total enrollment into the five figure range. So far, only Wyoming and South Dakota have enrolled less than 10% of their potential enrollees – every other state has enrolled at least 10%. But if Wyoming gets to the 10,000 mark by the end of open enrollment, it will have enrolled 12.5% of its eligible population.
The federally-run Wyoming health insurance exchange has 18 plans available from two health insurance carriers: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming and WINhealth Partners. Rates in Wyoming are higher than anywhere else in the country, due to a variety of factors including a small number of insurers and a sparse, mostly rural population. The national average for the lowest cost Bronze plan is $249/month, but in Wyoming, it’s $425/month. Excluding Natrona and Laramie counties (home to Casper and Cheyenne), the rest of Wyoming ranks as the sixth most expensive region in the US for health insurance plans.
Gov. Matt Mead announced in late 2012 that Wyoming would default to the federal health insurance exchange for 2014, with the possibility of moving to a state-run exchange at some unspecified future date.
In 2012, the Wyoming legislature passed a bill requiring a small committee to study the federal government’s implementation and operation of the exchange. The committee will monitor how many state residents use the federal exchange, what problems they encounter, operating costs, and other factors in deciding whether to recommend the state eventually take over operations of the exchange. The committee held its first meeting in April 2013, and the study may take more than two years according to the committee co-chair. This round of study continues the evaluation process started by the Wyoming Health Insurance Exchange Steering Committee, which Mead appointed in 2011.
Gov. Mead has also refused to expand Medicaid, but there’s a possibility that the state will reconsider that decision. Two bills that would expand Medicaid passed out of committee in January by a small margin. Both failed introduction during the budget session in mid-February, and there is little chance for an expansion vote in the current legislative session. But some lawmakers are continuing to push for Medicaid expansion.
Wyoming Insurance Department
Provides consumer protection and support to Wyoming residents by investigating consumer complaints and resolving issues on insurance matters.
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State Exchange Profile: Wyoming
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Wyoming’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Let your Wyoming governor and legislators know how you feel about the state’s proposed health insurance exchange.Wyoming Governor Matt Mead