Obamacare's Multi-State Program Unlikely to Spur Competition

Monday, 24 Jun 2013 03:53 PM

By Dan Weil

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The Multi-State Plan Program, created to increase competition on the insurance exchanges that represent the foundation of Obamacare, may turn out to be a flop.

The program is supposed to create at least two new insurance options in each state. The Affordable Care Act requires the federal government to contract with two multi-state insurance plans, and one of them must be a non-profit.

The plans have to be offered in at least 31 states starting next year. The requirement is the remnant of the public insurance option sought by some liberals.

Yet it looks like the only insurers that will be able to offer coverage across the country are ones that already do so, according to Politico.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is the only non-profit that has pledged to provide multi-state plans. "But the Blues already provide coverage in all 50 states, and the early indications are that their multi-state plans will basically be clones of the standard plans they’ll be selling anyway in any given state," according to Politico.

So it looks like nothing new is coming for those who will purchase health insurance under Obamacare.

In Kansas, for example, "for all practical purposes, the [multi-state] plan is the same as the one they submitted to be their regular plan for the regular marketplace," Linda Sheppard, health policy director in the state's Department of Insurance told Politico.

"I think for our state, it doesn’t really offer another option."

Don’t expect much change in New Hampshire. "We expect the exchange to look a lot like our individual market, where there’s one carrier with about 90 percent of the business," Alex Feldvebel, deputy commissioner at the New Hampshire Department of Insurance, told The Washington Post.

"It’s not very surprising that in New Hampshire, there might be only one carrier offering coverage through the exchange."

Some insurance regulators are of the opinion that the Department of Health and Human Services set up the multi-state plan regulations so that the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, a non-profit parent of Blue Cross affiliates, could be classified as the non-profit provider, even though some of its members are for-profit companies, Politico reports.

Competition may not increase at all after Obamacare is enacted.

"The barriers that keep issuers from entering new markets have not changed," Sabrina Corlette, a health research professor at Georgetown University, told publication. "The issuers that could qualify as a multi-state plan in all 31 states in year one are probably already there in those states."

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