Healthcare.gov Works! — As a Portal Into Medicaid Limbo


U.S. Government

If you want your health care, you can keep banging away on the federal Obamacare exchange website until you get routed to taxpayer-funded Medicaid. But you might not get to keep that Medicaid coverage, because you don't necessarily qualify, no matter what the nice, if slightly confused, robots at Healthcare.gov say. But, at least you'll have plenty of company. The vast majority of people getting enrolled in coverage through the website are being signed up for Medicaid. We just don't yet know how many of them will actually get covered by that coverage.

Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute points out in the New York Post:

The good news, if you want to call it that, is that roughly 1.6 million Americans have enrolled in ObamaCare so far.

The not-so-good news is that 1.46 million of them actually signed up for Medicaid. If that trend continues, it could bankrupt both federal and state governments.

That's no joke! My own Arizona, which has a comparatively lean and mean version of Medicaid in the form of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), has seen costs rise by 98 percent from 2004 to 2014 (PDF). In Arizona, AHCCCS is only the second most expensive budget item, while "For most states," points out Tanner, "Medicaid is the single-largest cost of government, crowding out education, transportation and everything else."

But hold on there! Many of those people being routed to Medicaid by Healthcare.gov are arriving in the wrong location. Reports USA Today:

When consumers applying for insurance put their income information into subsidy calculators on HealthCare.gov — the exchange handling insurance sales for 36 states — it tells them how much financial assistance they qualify for or that they are eligible for Medicaid. If it's the latter, consumers aren't able to obtain subsidies toward the insurance, although they could buy full-priced plans.

If the Medicaid determination is wrong, consumers should file an appeal with the federal marketplace, says Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters, but she says she does not have an estimate on how long that would take.

Brokers are reporting that some of their clients are in insurance limbo as they wait for the error to be corrected by HHS or their states so they can reapply.

Jessica Waltman, top lobbyist for the National Association of Health Underwriters, says she's heard a number of reports from around the country of people making as much as $80,000 a year being told they qualify for Medicaid on HealthCare.gov.

Yeah… That's a mistake.

Nobody seems entirely sure how much chaos has been created yet. Basically, officials don't yet know what they don't know. But there's plenty of uncertainty to go around for state budget planners as well as people who just want to buy some health coverage without a hassle.