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Ohio prepares for federal health insurance market

By Ann Sanner
Associated Press

COLUMBUS: The state’s director of insurance says she’s waiting along with other Ohioans to see how people will sign up for coverage under President Barack Obama’s health-care law.

Gov. John Kasich’s administration opted to let the federal government run the state’s new health insurance marketplace that was created by the Affordable Care Act.

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who runs the state’s insurance department, told reporters Tuesday that she has browsed the federal government’s website about the law but isn’t sure what enrollees will see when they search for coverage.

“I still don’t have a website that I’ve actually been on and looked at to show me, you know, what’s an Ohio consumer going to see when they go out to see what kinds of options they have in Ohio?” Taylor said. Taylor, a Republican from Green, has been one of the state’s most vocal critics of the law.

Consumers can get private health insurance subsidized by the government through the marketplaces created by the law, also known as exchanges. Enrollment starts Tuesday, Oct. 1, and coverage takes effect in January.

Ohio has yet to certify any “navigators,” the name given to professionals who will help people get enrolled in the new markets.

Taylor said the insurance department is processing one entity’s application for certified navigators. Three other organizations also have been awarded federal money to hire navigators. One hospital in Cincinnati returned its grant award because of state restrictions.

Ohio created additional regulations for its navigators, including required background checks, training and certification. Navigators can advise people on whether they’d be eligible for Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled. But they can’t offer advice about which health benefit plan is better or worse for a person.

Providers, health centers, food banks and other groups plan to help get the word out about the law to the more than 1.5 million uninsured Ohioans.

The head of one consumer advocacy group expressed confidence Tuesday that Ohioans would have enough in-person help getting enrolled — but maybe not in the opening week of the exchange.

“By mid- or late October, we’ll be in great shape,” said Cathy Levine, executive director of the Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio. She said her organization eventually plans to have five counselors available to help people through the process. They will schedule appointments in the meantime.

People also can apply for coverage online, through a call center, in person, or on paper on their own.


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