More Details on the Oklahoma Heath Insurance Exchange
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner
This morning I attended a conference call held by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) specifically for the state of Oklahoma regarding the health insurance exchanges. I was anxious to attend because there has been talk in the news that the implementation of the exchanges may be delayed. Here is my interpretation of this conference call.
The presenters made clear that the federally-run Oklahoma Health Insurance Exchange will be ready to go when open enrollment begins on October 1, 2013. Enrollment for individual health insurance along with Medicaid and CHIP will take place with one single application through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The open enrollment period will run through March 2014. Coverage will start on January 1, 2014. A participant asked if someone who did not enroll during this period could sign up later, like if he/she were being admitted to the hospital for a lengthy hospital stay. The presenter said not at this time.
In-person assistance will be available for help filling out the application. Over $1 million in funding has been allocated to Oklahoma for this assistance. Navigators will play a key role, along with certified application counselors; training will be completed this summer. In addition to applying through the online Marketplace, consumers and small businesses can also apply through insurance brokers and agents.
Timeline of Progress
- In April, CMS took applications from private insurance companies who wanted their products listed on the exchange. CMS will review these applications in May and June.
- In June, a call center will go live. Navigators will receive a special ID number that will allow them to be connected to the call center through a special telephone line. For the public, there will be a single toll-free number as well as a TTY number. The purpose of the call center is to provide information, not enroll people over the phone. Operators will speak both English and Spanish. An additional language phone line accommodating over 150 languages will be available. Callers who do not speak English or Spanish will need to call the toll-free line and ask to be connected to this line. Of course, if they don’t speak English they probably cannot read English so it will be up to consumer advocates to get this information to this segment of the population.
- The official government website for the health care law, www.healthcare.gov, will be re-launched in June and will focus on providing educational information. The presenters said after inputting some information, the website will display customized information for Oklahomans. I’m not sure if this will happen in June or at a later date. The government’s official Spanish website is www.cuidadodesalud.gov/.
- In late August, insurance providers can view their product offerings on the Marketplace website.
- On October 1, the Marketplace website goes live to the public. Several participants asked if stakeholders will be able to test this system before this date. The presenters said that testing will take place over the summer.
- A participant asked if the public will be able to view insurance offerings before October 1. The answer was a little vague – once the provider is approved (by CMS and/or the Oklahoma State Insurance Department?), a link to that provider’s plan will be provided.
The Enrollment Process
Last week CMS announced a new revised application form (View Press Release). Here are the links to several applications:
You will notice that phone numbers are not provided. That’s because the call center is not up and running yet.
Applicants can submit a paper form or submit the information online. If done online, your income will be verified in real-time and you will receive your eligibility results (including available tax credits) almost immediately. Once eligible, you can select your plan by going through educational screens. Users will be able to save and download their applications.
The paper form for families is 12 pages long. Applying online does sound less confusing. It will be a dynamic process. This means that if a block of questions does not apply to you, you will automatically skip past it.
CMS will be conducting two more conference calls specifically for Oklahoma this summer. I’ll do my best to keep you informed.