"Get Covered, Illinois!" Hearing the tag line for the new Affordable Care Act, I instinctively think that for some reason I walked out of my house half-dressed. But, instead it is an appeal to Illinoisans, urging their participation in the health insurance exchange which begins tomorrow.
The trouble is as of Friday, there was no website address to visit to begin the process of applying for the insurance. I received a call from a spokesman for the Governor on Friday about the exchange. He wanted to know if I had any questions. I allowed him to speak first about the exchanges. He essentially regurgitated the press release I had already read the day before.
I then asked him if he could guarantee that people would be able to see their same doctors. He could not answer that. He was very proud of the fact that Illinois is expected to have premium rates 25% below the average in the country. So, I asked him what you get for that rate. What are the deductibles, co-pays, and coverage? No answer.
I gave up on the Governor’s Office and called House Staff. Here is the response I received, minus the personal contact information of House Staff Members:
To: Jeanne Ives
Sent: Monday, September 30, 2013 12:06 PM
Subject: Obamacare and Medicare
Per our discussion, research staff is anticipating that the plan and rate information will be released tomorrow. I hope the following information, talking points and temporary federal website and phone number helps in the meantime.
As of Friday: DOI says they still cannot provide info regarding what the Marketplace web address or call center numbers will be, so unfortunately we can’t provide the most important info yet to our members.
And info from House Research on the same topic from last Wednesday:
At least for now, the point that we should try to make on the rate “snapshot” that was released this week is that these lower premiums probably just indicate that the networks available to consumers will be much more narrow – i.e. consumers will have more limited access to certain doctors and hospitals than those covered by more expensive plans.
The snapshot also only includes premiums – it does not speak to costs for prescriptions, co-pays, or deductibles. In addition, there is speculation that some insurers are offering lower-cost plans the first year in hopes of securing new customers who will then stick with them in the coming years when rates are raised.
You may have also seen that the State unveiled “Get Covered Illinois” today as the official “brand name” for the Exchange, with the advertising and marketing campaign to follow. The Get Covered Illinois website (where enrollment will take place) is still not expected to launch until October 1st. The website will have an 800 number to connect consumers to a navigator, as well as a feature to contact navigators according to zip code.
The Dept. of Insurance told me today that they are still working on a guide with FAQs specifically for district offices, and will send it to me as soon as it’s complete.
Also here's some updated talking points in regards to Medicaid expansion:
Obamacare Medicaid Expansion
· In the past decade, Illinois’ Medicaid costs have more than doubled to $11 billion, consuming one-third of the State’s general funds budget.
· Illinois’ Medicaid enrollment has also doubled, from 1.4 million enrollees to nearly 3 million enrollees.
· Illinois woke up to a horrible fiscal crisis that required drastic actions to reform runaway Medicaid spending.
· A few years ago, the General Assembly passed a moratorium on Medicaid expansion.
· Last year, the General Assembly made $1.6 billion in cuts to Medicaid and demanded stronger eligibility verification.
· Even after these cuts and reforms, Illinois is on pace to end 2013 with $9 billion in unpaid bills.
· We cannot afford to add another 500,000 people to our Medicaid rolls, which will completely wipe out the savings achieved by Medicaid reforms over the past few years.
· Obamacare is a tax on the middle class to pay for more welfare. It will greatly expand our welfare rolls and add billions of dollars in costs to Illinois taxpayers.
· According to Comptroller Topinka, Obamacare will cost Illinois up to $2.4 billion over the next six years. Taxpayers cannot afford this massive expansion of a bankrupt entitlement program.
Here was the federal portal and helpline if you need it:
As of today, only the federal website www.healthcare.gov and the call number 1-800-318-2596 are live. If you receive any constituent calls on the matter, we suggest your refer them to the federal website and phone number because it remains unclear if the State Health Insurance Marketplace website and call line will be ready by October 1st.
We will keep you posted as we get more information on the implementation.