Lack of state-run insurance exchange could hurt Wisconsin - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Lack of state-run insurance exchange could hurt Wisconsin

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MADISON (WKOW) -- In November of 2012, Governor Scott Walker decided Wisconsin would not set up a state-run health insurance exchange under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying there would be no real benefit to it.

That means Wisconsin will have its exchange run by the federal government.

But an official with the Obama administration says there may be some disadvantages to that choice after all.

Kenneth Munson, the Director of the Great Lakes area (Region 5) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, met with state lawmakers and health care stakeholders Thursday about the federal exchange that goes into effect in January of 2014.

Executives from hospital, insurance and patient associations had a lot of questions for Munson about exactly how the federal health insurance exchange will work here in Wisconsin.

"One of the biggest challenges that the exchange faces is making sure uninsured people and insured people, and businesses get good information.  What are the choices?  What are the costs of the different choices?," asked David Riemer of the Community Advocates for Public Policy Institute, an advocacy group for low-income people.

Munson is very clear that this process would have been more smooth if Wisconsin had opted for a state-run exchange, or a state-federal partnership.

"Where you have the state-direct involvement, you have a different kind of infrastructure.  And in a lot of those places you've had weeks or months or years of meetings around all of these issues, so, its just in most of the state exhanges its been more organized," said Munson.

In states like Wisconsin, HHS is relying on ad hoc meetings, such as the one set up by Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) on Thursday.

"The exchanges that are operated by the federal government in the states, will not be as state specific, by definition," said Munson.  "And the challenge of figuring out what kind of input you get and how you get it, like today, what we've seen today is a little bit of a challenge.

Challenges include not just the set up of exchange, but how its marketed so that people will understand when and how to use the exchange to buy insurance.

But Wisconsin consumers likely won't get a message specifically tailored to them.
    
"We're working now in setting up exchanges, the federal exchanges in a number of states.  That kind of customization is not really realistic at this stage," said Munson.

The good news is that Wisconsin stakeholders have eight months to help HHS meet their needs.

October is when the initial enrollment period for the health insurance exchange begins.

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