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Washington, D.C.-based Kaiser Health News is a KHI News Service partner. KHN provides daily coverage of national health policy issues.
That sigh of relief you heard Monday was from hospital administrators in nearly two dozen states, including Florida, Texas and Kansas. That’s because the Obama administration announced Monday that for the next two years, it doesn’t plan to penalize states that have yet to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal health law by targeting them for reduced Medicaid funding.
Four states that have snubbed the federal health law by defaulting to the federal government to build new online insurance marketplaces and not agreeing to expand Medicaid are getting new jobs at call centers that will help consumers understand their new coverage options this fall. Kansas is one of them.
This week, Colorado became the first state to launch a public awareness campaign with television, print, radio and billboard ads that will cost $2 million and run two months. The TV ad shows a woman at her kitchen table scrolling through health plan information on the Connect for Health Colorado website. The voice over says the website lets people shop and buy a health plan online.
The wide variation in spending to hire and train people to provide consumer assistance in the first year of the new marketplaces could have a major impact on how many people actually get coverage under Obamacare, experts say. Yet states with some of the nation’s highest uninsured rates, such as Florida and Texas, are getting far less federal money per uninsured resident than states with low rates, such as Maryland, Vermont and Rhode Island, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.
Late last year, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced that her state would not build its own online insurance marketplace, a pillar of the Affordable Care Act, because there were too many unknowns. What Brewer didn’t say was that her state had spent $9 million in federal money to reach that conclusion.
The Arkansas plan to expand Medicaid by paying for enrollees to buy private health insurance has been billed as a new option for states led by Republicans who are leery of the federal health overhaul. And it’s getting attention from Republican leaders in Kansas, Florida and Ohio, among other states.
For industry titans such as UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint, as well as smaller, Medicaid-focused plans such as Molina, the Medicaid expansion is expected to bring significant enrollment and revenue growth.
Almost overnight, Florida has gone from being an ardent opponent of the federal health care law to a laboratory for an ambitious experiment under the law. If state lawmakers back Gov. Rick Scott's plan to expand Medicaid, it will be an experiment with a determinedly free-market twist. Scott’s turnabout on the Medicaid expansion came a few hours after the federal government tentatively approved his application to fully privatize the federal-state program for the poor.
President Barack Obama’s health law has been criticized as a “government takeover” of health care. But private companies are building the underpinnings of the online health insurance marketplaces that are a key element of the law – and winning contracts worth hundreds of millions to do so.
The Obama administration’s announcement Thursday that it has given Utah a conditional okay to run its own state health insurance marketplace came as a surprise to many exchange watchers.