The federal government has added a new wrinkle to the HealthCare.gov website in response to an overwhelming number of inquires from consumers in Ohio and other states, where the government is facilitating enrollment in the new health care marketplaces.
Persistent problems with the website, which launched Oct. 1, have prevented millions of consumers from accessing health plan information and pricing. The federal government is running the marketplace exchanges for Ohio and 35 other states.
On Oct. 10, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added a “premium tool” to the website, Data.HealthCare.gov, that allows consumers to compare health care and dental plans and premium prices from different insurers by county in each state without actually enrolling or creating a user account.
But the prices do not include tax credit subsidies, which would lower premium costs for households with yearly incomes up to about $46,000 for individuals or $94,000 for a family of four.
“The only way you can get your actual price is to put in all your information and complete a marketplace application,” an HHS spokesman said Wednesday. “This tool is simply meant to be used to help consumers preview how much they’re likely to pay.”
In Montgomery County, for example, six insurers — Humana Health Plan of Ohio; Medical Mutual Ohio; Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield; HealthSpan; CareSource and Molina Marketplace — are selling 45 different plans for individuals. Non-subsidized monthly premiums for individuals 49 or younger range from about $129 for a catastrophic plan to about $445 for a gold plan that covers at least 70 percent of medical costs. Prices can vary by county depending on the overall health risk of the region.
Subsidies, which are calculated on an income-based sliding scale, can reduce premium costs by as much as 80 percent for those at the lower end of the income spectrum.
Still questions remain about the accuracy of the pricing on the website. But at least one insurer selling marketplace plans in Ohio said questions about pricing appeared to be unwarranted.
“We haven’t had any issues with that,” said Don Olson of Medical Mutual. “They’re plugging in the correct rates we filed with the Ohio Department of Insurance.”
Statewide, 12 insurers have been approved to sell 3,426 individual plans through Ohio’s marketplace, according to the website.
But enrollment has been slow, primarily because of snafus with the HealthCare.gov website. Federal officials have not released any data on how many Americans have received coverage, though they have stated numbers will be provided beginning next month.
“I can’t give you and exact figure, but it has been less than 100 so far,” Olson said, referring to Medical Mutual’s marketplace enrollment.”You can sign up in different ways — through an insurance broker or a health insurer’s website — but it still has to go through the hub on HealthCare.gov. And it’s still having problems.”
One problem that Medial Mutual has encountered that may be skewing nationwide enrollment figures is the tendency for the same consumers to sign up for coverage multiple times.
“We had one person in Columbus sign up three times,” Olson said.
He said consumers often get kicked off the website after they hit the “submit” button, and return to the website to enroll all over again.
“Each time they click submit, they’re generating a new enrollment request,” Olson said. “We don’t know which policy to keep until the government informs us. Then we go back and cancel the duplicates.”
But even while the government is working to iron out the glitches and add capacity at HealthCare.gov, at least some consumers are having success signing up for coverage, much to the delight of local insurers like Dayton-based CareSource.
“CareSource is experiencing success daily from consumers enrolling in CareSource Just4Me,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. “Enrollment volume continues to increase, and this past week we’ve seen our fastest growth to date. CareSource Just4Me has triple-digit enrollment to date. In addition, we have several thousand consumers who have expressed interest by registering on our website. Others are requesting a call back when the web traffic improves on the federal site.”
Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that it will hold daily briefings beginning today to provide updates about efforts to repair the technical bugs plaguing the website.
Ohioans unable to buy health insurance on the federal exchange website, www.HealthCare.gov, due to ongoing technical issues, can see the potential costs for monthly premiums but without the subsidies at Data.HealthCare.gov. There are 3,426 different plans for individuals available statewide. Here are the plans and insurance companies for local counties.
Butler, Montgomery: 45 plans each from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield; CareSource; HealthSpan; Humana Health Plan of Ohio, Inc.; MedMutual; and Molina Marketplace.
Champaign: 34 plans from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield; HealthSpan; and MedMutual.
Clark: 41 plans from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield; CareSource; HealthSpan; MedMutual; and Molina Marketplace.
Greene, Miami and Preble: 38 plans each from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield; CareSource; HealthSpan; and MedMutual.
Warren:42 plans from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield; CareSource; HealthSpan; Humana Health Plan of Ohio, Inc.; and MedMutual.