By Maggie Thurber | for Ohio Watchdog
More Ohioans will join Medicaid than buy their own insurance, even with subsidies, say Obamacare sign-up figures, released Wednesday.
Although 5,672 people selected a marketplace plan, 9,231 – 62 percent – were determined to be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, the state’s health insurance program for children.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services figures also show just 28 percent who qualified to enroll in a marketplace plan were eligible for subsidies to help pay for that plan.
“One of the reasons why enrollment numbers are so low after two months of the federal exchange being up and running is that a lot fewer are qualifying for subsidies than originally projected,” said Chris Brock, director of communication for the Ohio Department of Insurance.
In November, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated 67 percent of potential Ohio enrollees would qualify for subsidies.
According to HHS, more than 50,000 completed applications covering 96,409 adults and children have been received since Oct. 1.
Brock said November enrollment was up considerably over October, but that was “only because the healthcare.gov website wasn’t working” during the first month of operation.
The Medicaid enrollment for Ohio mirrors the national numbers. HHS reports that 69 percent of people who have completed the healthcare.gov sign-up were eligible for Medicaid or CHIP.
But not all of those who selected a plan have paid for them, and the government doesn’t yet know who has and has not paid.
“You make (payment) through an insurance company – you don’t pay the federal government. We are the sign-up site, and you make the payment directly to the insurer,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.
“I’ve never seen a business where you get to the point in the fundamental business transaction where you’re going to make the payment, and you can’t do it,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas. “That is a flawed system.”
Brock said those opting for a plan through the exchange need to pay their selected insurance company by the end of the year to have their plan in effect by Jan. 1.
Sam Rossi, communications director for the Ohio Department of Medicaid, said the state has not yet received from the federal government the complete files of those the federal exchange determined would qualify for Medicaid.
“Ohioans who believe they may be eligible for Medicaid should visit the benefits.ohio.gov website and begin the application process through there,” he said.
Ohio estimated that 231,000 individuals would enroll in Medicaid through the health-care exchanges, costing the state $521 million in the 2014-2015 budget.