Exchange News Roundup

Idaho, New Mexico get federal help with exchange technology

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that despite the new exchange board’s best efforts, Idaho will need to enlist federal help for making its exchange fully functional by Oct. 1.

The board’s chairman, Stephen Weeg, said the federal government will run the enrollment and eligibility portions of the state’s exchange because a computer contractor hasn’t been selected. Idaho consumers could still log on to the exchange’s website Oct. 1 to sign up for health insurance, he said. But behind the scenes, federal computers would determine who is eligible for subsidies on insurance.

Federal officials are also doing this for New Mexico’s exchange and are ready to support other state-based exchanges with technology as needed.

Three insurers in, three insurers out

Over at the Los Angeles Times, Chad Terhune reports that the state’s three largest insurers Kaiser Permanente, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California (87% of the market collectively) are expected to participate in the exchange, while UnitedHealth, Aetna and Cigna have chosen not to participate in Covered California.

Glenn Melnick, a health policy professor at USC, said there could be advantages and disadvantages if the state’s three largest insurers — Kaiser, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield — grab even more business through the exchange. Their increased market power could give them even better bargaining leverage with hospitals and doctors, helping them to drive down healthcare costs.

But Melnick said it remained to be seen whether “the market is competitive enough that those companies will pass along those savings.”

Melnick said UnitedHealth, Aetna and Cigna may be making a mistake by sitting on the sidelines given California’s size and importance in the healthcare overhaul nationwide. “California is going to be a trendsetter,” he said.

The Sacramento Bee has the latest on premium costs for Covered California.

Premiums on Colorado’s Exchange

And the Denver Business Journal reports that 17 carriers have submitted rates for Colorado’s exchange, but monthly premiums are all over the board:

For example, a typical 40-year-old non-smoking Denver-area resident wanting a “silver band” plan — those for which 70 percent of the costs are covered by the plan — might pay anywhere from $265 to $405 a month for an individual plan.

And an employer providing insurance to that same 40-year-old as part of small-group plan might have to pay $459 a month for that plan, according to a number of filings.