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The Michigan Health Insurance Marketplace: How did the Rollout Go?

Technical glitches. Partisan rancor. Breathless media coverage. The rollout of the online Health Insurance Marketplaces (also known as Exchanges) did not lack for drama or controversy. The unveiling of the Marketplaces, one of the key elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was perhaps the most anticipated and controversial website launch in history. The website www.healthcare.gov was flooded with traffic from the moment it opened on October 1, 2013 and many interested consumers ran into trouble. While most of the extensive media coverage of the Marketplaces focused on problems nationally, we wanted to take a look at how Michigan’s Marketplace (and consumers) fared.

A Detroit Free Press headline summed up much of the coverage: “Michiganders frustrated as new Internet health-insurance marketplace crashes, jams.” Many consumers who attempted to access the site on October 1 received the following message: “Health Insurance Marketplace: Please wait. We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we’re working to make your experience here better. Please wait here until we send you to the login page. Thanks for your patience!” According to The Detroit News, several “navigators” – those trained to assist consumers with enrollment – stated that due to technical problems they were not able to enroll a single customer for an insurance plan on day 1 of the program. Overall, few people were able to establish accounts, let alone purchase insurance in the program’s early days.

The costs of plans available on the Michigan Marketplace were also a surprise to many consumers. The costs, which had been treated as closely guarded trade secrets, were first revealed to the public on October 1. Prices tended to vary widely depending on one’s personal circumstances. According to a Detroit Free Press article, “[w]hile some leaner policies that cover 60% of medical expenses begin at less than $140 a month for a 25-year-old who doesn’t use tobacco, more robust policies that cover about 90% of medical expenses can top $1,500 a month for a 55-year-old smoker.” The general reaction of clients we spoke with revealed that the costs were higher than expected.

While performance of the website is expected to improve, it is still not clear what impact, if any, the current budget and debt ceiling debates and associated government shutdown, will have on the Marketplaces. Republicans in Congress are battling for, among other things, a one-year delay of the individual insurance mandate. Such a delay would undoubtedly slow down the pace of activity on the Marketplaces.

Stay tuned for additional updates on the Marketplaces, both in Michigan and nationally, as the health care reform rollout continues.

Categories: Health Care Reform, Health Insurance Exchange

Photo of Mindi M. Johnson

With a business-minded approach, and service-oriented delivery, Mindi helps clients navigate challenges and solve problems in the areas of employee benefits law and health care law. Mindi has spoken and written extensively on employee benefits, health care reform, and health care law topics, and is actively involved in a number of legal, professional and industry organizations focused on these issues.

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Best Lawyers® 2021

Congratulations to the attorneys of the Health Care practice group at Foster Swift Collins & Smith, PC for their inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America 2021 edition. Firm-wide, 44 lawyers were listed. Best Lawyers lists are compiled based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation and as lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Health Care practice group members listed in Best Lawyers are as follows:

To see the full list of Foster Swift attorneys listed in Best Lawyers 2021, click here.