The Spokesman-Review

Opinion

SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 2014

Editorial: What’s in a name? Let’s wait, watch and find out

By 11:59 p.m. Monday, well more than 1 million individuals will have accessed Washington Healthplanfinder.com, a site that did not exist six months ago.

At least 130,000 will have purchased private health insurance. New Medicaid enrollees will number more than 250,000, almost as many as had been projected by 2018.

Your Health Idaho has signed up 44,000 residents for private plans, already 10 percent more than the 40,000 projected by the Congressional Budget Office in January. The state has been among the most successful reaching the previously uninsured despite its reliance on HealthCare.gov, the federal health insurance exchange.

The deadline to sign up in North Idaho, by the way, is 8:59 p.m. Monday, to account for the time zone difference with Washington, D.C.

The lines in both states are still open, and will continue to be afterward for those who encountered glitches during sign-up, or whose circumstances change before the next sign-up period starts in November. Medicaid enrollments are possible all the time in Washington, none of the time in Idaho, an omission more egregious in light of the obvious demand for health insurance in that state.

So, what’s next?

Your Health Idaho’s effort to build its own exchange has begun with the hiring of a project manager and search for a technology consultant. Spokeswoman Judy Olson said an independent exchange by November is the goal, but functionality and security are more important than launch date.

In Washington, which overcame its own technology challenges, exchange spokesman Michael Marchand said officials will use the post-deadline period to assess how to improve customer service after experiencing Web traffic up to five times predicted volume. The initial sign-up rush was so overwhelming, he said, “we still don’t know what normal is.”

For the hundreds working at the exchange call center in Spokane, the outcome of that review could determine future employment.

The insurance commissioner’s office will hold a hearing April 22 on new rules for medical provider networks. Insurance is useless if buyers cannot see a doctor or reach a hospital. Commissioner Mike Kreidler early on blocked participation in the exchange to some companies because they could not show how or where customers could access care.

On May 1, the insurance companies must file their plans and rates for the next enrollment period with the commissioner. The filings will provide the first glimpse of company experience with claims by Affordable Care Act enrollees, and how that will affect pricing.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

Now, we have to see it work to see if it does work despite the efforts by too many politicians to see that it doesn’t.

Fudging by the Obama administration has helped turn off millions of Americans, but if the change can be made to work for the first 6 million enrollees, the law may be worthy of its name.

The Spokesman-Review Editorial Board

Members of The Spokesman-Review editorial board help to determine The Spokesman-Review's position on issues of interest to the Inland Northwest. Board members are:



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