Via Christi public policy staff helps shape Kansas State Insurance Exchange
A provision of the Affordable Care Act makes grant funds available to states to develop an insurance exchange through which those who are uninsured may shop for and purchase health insurance coverage. Sandy Praeger, state insurance commissioner, has created work groups to develop Kansas’ insurance exchange. Carolyn Smith, Via Christi Heath director of public policy, and Bruce Witt, director of legislative affairs, each serve on two work groups.
The following is a Q&A with Smith, whose Focus and Business Operation group is charged with determining what the exchange should look like and what it will and won’t do.
Why is Kansas working to set up a state insurance exchange?
One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act mandates that states set up an insurance exchange where people can “shop” for and even purchase health care coverage. There are many who feel that the insurance exchanges represent the heart of the ACA.
Is this due to the provision of the ACA that provides for insurance coverage for everyone?
The exchanges are to be used by consumers to facilitate their securing health care coverage as required by the ACA’s individual mandate that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014. It’s a very simple mandate — everyone has to have health care coverage.
How do the exchanges work?
The exchange is a website where consumers can access and fill out a simple application with basic personal information. A completed application will take them to another screen listing a number of plans. There will be filters that enable consumers to say, for example, “I don’t want a plan costing above a certain dollar amount per month,” or, “I want a plan that only includes my current physician.”
Those filters will narrow down the choices that will be presented to consumers who can then look at which plan offers the features they want, such as dental care and a premium they can afford. In addition to listing the benefits of each plan, the insurance plans will be rated as far as customer satisfaction. For example, the exchange may include a rating of the helpfulness of the plan’s customer call center or the length of time a company takes to process claims.
Some question whether the ACA will stand. Why is Kansas proceeding with setting up a state insurance exchange?
I don’t think anyone, in full confidence, can say that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to rule one way or the other. If the state were to sit back and do nothing, we could find ourselves in the position of saying, “Oops! The Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act and we don’t have a plan in place. The only option we have at that point is to watch the federal government come in and operate the exchange for us. Our greatest fear in that scenario is that the exchange that Health and Human Services might set up may not reflect the culture, the population or the economy of Kansas.