Illinois Gets Approved for Health Insurance Exchange
Illinois has obtained formal approval from the federal government to operate its health insurance exchange jointly with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services next year, officials announced on February 13, 2013.
A key part of President Barack Obama’s health reform law, the state-level exchanges are intended to be online sites where consumers and small businesses can shop and compare health insurance plans. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is in Chicago this week to kick off the rebranding of health insurance exchanges as “marketplaces” for health coverage.
Illinois officials estimate that about 486,000 people statewide will obtain insurance through the exchange.
For the first year, the state Department of Insurance expects some 260 plans to be offered to individual customers on the exchange and roughly equal number of plans for small businesses. Based on feedback from carriers, the agency expects 16 companies to sell products in the marketplace.
State officials say the exchange will shift to state control in 2015.
The federal approval comes after the Illinois General Assembly last year failed to put forth legislation for the state to establish its own exchange. Gov. Pat Quinn said last fall, after Mr. Obama’s re-election, that the state would pursue a partnership exchange with HHS.
With less than eight months before the sites are set to go live on Oct. 1 for open enrollment, state and federal officials are mounting a final public relations push to maximize participation in the exchanges. Having more customers will mean the marketplaces will function more effectively, experts say.
Only 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to set up exchanges, according to the Menlo Park, Calif.-based Kaiser Family Foundation.
Ms. Sebelius was slated to appear with Mr. Quinn this afternoon at Erie Family Health Center, a community clinic on the West Side. Her visit comes the day after Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address in Washington.
“I applaud Illinois’ work to build a new health insurance marketplace,” Ms. Sebelius said in a statement. “Illinois has made significant progress and will be ready in eight months for open enrollment when Illinoisans will be able to use the new marketplace to easily purchase quality, affordable health insurance plans.”
“Here in the home state of President Barack Obama, we are forging ahead to make the promise of the Affordable Care Act a reality,” Mr. Quinn said in the statement.
After using the term “health insurance exchange” for months, HHS has already changed to the term “Health Insurance Marketplace” in some of its online materials as it tries to raise awareness of the program. Characterizing the exchanges as such may reduce some confusion. For instance, Illinois is creating a health information exchange to help health care providers more effectively share medical records.
Mr. Quinn last week in his State of the State speech urged Illinois lawmakers to pass legislation to establish the state’s stand-alone health insurance exchange for 2015, along with a bill on another key provision of the Affordable Care Act that would expand Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor.
The health care law’s mandate requires individuals to carry health insurance and businesses with at least 50 employees to offer it to their workers. The exchanges are intended to be marketplaces where companies and individuals who don’t qualify for Medicaid can buy coverage.