By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — Kansans got their first peek at Obamacare enrollment figures Wednesday, and the news was anything but good.
Over the course of the first month in which individuals could enroll for health insurance coverage through HealthCare.gov, the flagging federal marketplace was only able to successfully enroll 371 Kansas residents.
While that figure is depressing enough on its own, the hits don’t stop there. The number of successful enrollees is absolutely dwarfed by the 19,450 plans that will at some point be canceled because they don’t meet requirements set forth in the Affordable Care Act, according to spokespersons with Blue Cross Blue Shield.
If that number looks higher than expected, there’s a good reason for that: media outlets around Kansas have only been reporting half of the real figure. While BCBS of Kansas has said roughly 9,450 contracts will be non-renewed as a result of the Affordable Care Act, BCBS of Kansas City — which only serves Johnson and Wyandotte counties — has sent out roughly 10,000 cancellation notices.
To make matters worse, that nearly-20,000 figure doesn’t represent the whole picture. Aetna, the parent company for Coventry Health Care, said it doesn’t have a current total of how many plans don’t meet minimum requirements mandated by Obamacare. Additionally, numerous other small health insurance providers in Kansas didn’t return calls from Kansas Watchdog seeking similar statistics.
— Lynn Jenkins (@RepLynnJenkins) November 13, 2013
— Jerry Moran (@JerryMoran) November 13, 2013
ACA Woodwork effect is real. 371 signed up for insurance. 1,718 non- expanded Medicaid eligible. Cost to KS $50M annually. #ksleg
— Jim Denning (@JimDenning4KS) November 14, 2013
President Barack Obama took to the airwaves Thursday morning to quell outrage stemming from the cancellation notices sent to countless Americans nationwide. In response to the backlash, Obama said insurance companies will be allowed to renew for an additional year plans that don’t meet Obamacare’s minimum requirements.
Whether or not that will actually happen isn’t clear. BCBSKS corporate communications manager Mary Beth Chambers said in a statement Thursday afternoon that the Sunflower State insurance provider won’t be making any snap decisions on the matter.
“We look forward to receiving specific guidance from the federal government and direction from the Kansas Insurance Department, and will quickly review the guidance to determine the best course of action for our members and our company,” Chambers said. “We will communicate information directly to members affected by this announcement as soon as possible.”
Keep in mind, Obama’s announcement doesn’t prevent these plans from ever being canceled, it effectively just kicks the can down the road a bit.
Linda Sheppard, special counsel and director of health care policy and analysis for the Kansas Insurance Department, said persistent problems in the opening weeks of the Obamacare rollout led her to expect low enrollment numbers.
“It was not a surprise, but disappointing because we know from our presentations around the state that there is a lot of interest,” Sheppard said.
Enrolling through the online federal exchange “is very clearly hit and miss, you don’t know what’s going to be your experience,” she added.
“Whether or not the commitment at this point that things are going to be better at the end of this month is yet to be seen,” Sheppard noted.
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