The flawed healthcare website is preventing tens of thousands of low-income Americans from enrolling in Medicaid, federal and state health officials say.
While the primary function of the federal exchange site is to provide a one-stop-shop for private insurance, people can also use the site to sign up for Medicaid.
According to The New York Times
, the federal government planned to send any Medicaid applications it received through Healthcare.gov to state programs. Last year, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said the exchange would transfer Medicaid information "promptly and without undue delay," using a "secure electronic interface."
But right now, state health officials say they aren’t getting any Medicaid enrollment information
from the feds.
"We have not seen much progress on the flow of data from the federal marketplace to the state," said Monica Coury, assistant director of the Medicaid program in Arizona.
"After a person is assessed as potentially eligible for Medicaid, the application just sits there in the federal marketplace. If you need insurance because you have a serious medical condition, that delay could be harmful."
The delays are affecting people in 36 states that rely on the federal exchange for Medicaid information. If a person is eligible for Medicaid, coverage could start immediately, if the government transferred the information.
Since information isn't changing hands, officials say it might be easier for people to apply through state Medicaid offices rather than wait for the federal government to work out the kinks in the system.
Matt Salo, the executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, says the enrollment problem is confusing consumers.
"You go to Healthcare.gov and spend 45 minutes or more to set up an account," Salo said. "Then you’re told that you’re eligible for Medicaid but can’t get it. You have to start all over again with the state Medicaid agency."
State health officials believe millions of people using the healthcare site will be eligible for Medicaid, which has financial strings for both state and federal governments.
The federal government will pick up the tab for any new Medicaid beneficiaries from 2014 to 2016. After that, states will gradually pay a share. By 2020, states will pay 10 percent of the costs associated with Medicaid and the federal government will pay the rest. For those already eligible for Medicaid, the state pays 27 to 50 percent of the cost.
States were supposed to see Medicaid applications as soon as the exchange opened on Oct. 1. That deadline was pushed back to Nov. 1 because of website problems, and now state officials expect that deadline to be postponed again to Jan. 1.
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