MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin health and insurance officials said Friday that the state is as prepared as can be for next week’s launch of open enrollment under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
But no one is quite sure what to expect.
“I’ll tell you Wednesday,” joked Kevin Moore, Wisconsin’s deputy secretary of health services when asked Friday whether there will be a stampede or trickle of people attempting to sign up for insurance Tuesday when the enrollment period begins.
The online exchange, or marketplace, is supposed to offer a consumer-friendly way to buy health insurance while forcing insurers to compete for business. Consumers can apply online at healthcare.gov, through a call center, in person, or through the mail.
Gov. Scott Walker opposes PPACA, or “Obamacare,” as it’s often called, and he declined to have the state set up the exchange, deferring instead to the federal government.
Walker also turned down federal money to pay for keeping people on Medicaid who earn up to 138 percent of the poverty line. Instead, Walker lowered Medicaid eligibility from those who earn 200 percent of the poverty line to those who earn 100 percent of it or less. That will force about 92,000 adults off of the BadgerCare program and into the exchange.
The new income eligibility limit for Medicaid starting in January will be $11,500 for an individual or $23,550 for a family of four.
They are among about 690,000 people who are expected to be eligible to buy insurance through the exchange. Another roughly 470,000 people currently have no insurance and some portion of the roughly 200,000 people who already privately purchase insurance will also be able to shop on the exchange.
There could be people who lose employer coverage and will be added to those shopping under the exchange, but it’s impossible to predict how many that may be, said deputy insurance commissioner Dan Schwartzer.
Thirteen of the 25 private insurance companies that offer policies to individuals will be selling plans on the exchange, with the entire state having at least two providers competing.