Federal Exchanges Face Medicaid Applications Glitch

With less than one week before the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges are scheduled to open for enrollment, CMS has acknowledged that the federally run marketplaces will not be able to electronically transfer Medicaid applications to states when U.S. residents begin signing up for health coverage on Oct. 1, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Although many uninsured residents will be eligible for federal subsidies to help offset the cost of private coverage through the online marketplaces, some might discover that they actually are eligible for Medicaid and could opt to sign up for coverage through the program.

A CMS spokesperson said the Medicaid applications will not be electronically relayed to the state-managed programs until Nov. 1 but noted that individuals could sign up directly through the states' offices, according to the Journal. Meanwhile, state officials -- who are aware of the problem -- have said that barring any additional delays, the technical glitch hindering prospective Medicaid applicants should not affect people's coverage beginning on Jan. 1.

News about the Medicaid-related technical glitch comes one week after the Journal reported that the 36 marketplaces operated solely by the government or in partnerships with states have been facing a problem with the software that will be used to calculate the exact amount of federal subsidies for eligible residents (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 9/24).

CMS Official Says Administration Is Ready for Glitches

In related news, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner during a speech at a health insurers conference on Tuesday said her agency is ready to handle any glitches that might arise during next week's open enrollment launch for the exchanges, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

Tavenner noted that it will take time before the system runs smoothly, adding that "everyone is going to be learning this as we go forward." She also urged critics to focus on "the things we need to resolve ... the mitigation strategies" and the steps that CMS is taking to "correct and identify" problems (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/24).

States Still Working To Prepare for Exchanges, Medicaid Expansion

Meanwhile, the National Association of Medicaid Directors reported that a recent survey of 20 unidentified states shows that state officials have made progress on their insurance exchanges and plans to expand Medicaid, but some states might not be fully prepared for enrollment in Medicaid at the same time that the marketplaces begin providing coverage, CQ HealthBeat reports.

According to NMAD, the states -- as of Sept. 15 -- had completed about 50% of their tests to connect their exchanges to a federal data hub that will be used to determine and communicate consumers' eligibility for Medicaid and federal subsidies.

Meanwhile, states had made greater progress in updating their eligibility and enrollment systems, which the ACA requires regardless of whether they are expanding their Medicaid programs. A summary from NAMD said states were continuing to "refine system details" and implement testing phases (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 9/24).


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