As the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion went into effect on Jan. 1, it was estimated that 9 million new beneficiaries would enroll in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program. By now, Americans who are eligible and who applied before the deadline were supposed to have coverage at the start of the year; however, tens of thousands of applicants are still finding themselves without insurance.
The purpose of establishing the health care law's online marketplace was to provide people seeking coverage with an easy, accessible way to obtain it. The aim of Healthcare.gov, which is utilized by 36 states across the country, was to offer real-time eligibility confirmation to consumers and then, if they qualify for a public program, to automatically send the application to the beneficiaries' state Medicaid agencies. From there, the state could accept the federal determination or do their own investigation to decide if a beneficiary is eligible.
Kaiser Health News reported that some 104,000 people in only five states (Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Illinois and Arizona) are still waiting to be enrolled after attempting to register. The issue at hand is that the site has been unable to transfer applicants' data to their respective state agencies that run Medicaid and CHIP. Officials from these five states claim that they have had no luck enrolling people in these public programs directly from Healthcare.gov. This issue is not linked to the ACA's Medicaid expansion – states that opted out, including Texas and Florida, are experiencing these complications.
Health officials are assuring the public that they are working out the software problems, though applicants have been hearing this guarantee since the portal launched in October 2013. The federal government assures that once these people complete the Medicaid process, their health care coverage will be retroactive to the beginning of the year; however, many are having trouble even getting medical services without proof of insurance.
For this reason, health officials at both the federal and state levels are encouraging people who are eligible for public coverage to utilize their state's Medicaid website rather than Healthcare.gov to complete the signup process – at least until the software issues have been resolved. This may require applicants to answer the same questions concerning household size, income and other personal details, but for many, it may mean the difference between getting health care coverage and going without.