Ted Nickel Discusses Health Care Exchanges, Info Sessions

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Ted Nickel Discusses Health Care Exchanges, Info Sessions

Premiere Date: 
September 6, 2013

The State Insurance Commissioner speaks about costs in the exchanges and OCI hearings.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Now to state news and ongoing preparation for the start of Affordable Care Act programs. Enrollment for those who seek health insurance in the federal exchanges starts on October 1. This week the office of the State Insurance Commissioner sponsored consumer health care information sessions all around the state. We asked the State Insurance Commissioner to share what he learned from consumers this week and to provide some insight into what's to come for consumers in the exchanges. Ted Nickel joins us now in Eau Claire, and thanks very much for doing so.

Ted Nickel:

Thank you, Frederica. It's nice to be here.

Frederica Freyberg:

So now, again, you conducted these statewide information sessions. Were they well-attended this week?  

Ted Nickel:

They were very well-attended. In fact, some of them were standing-room only. So we feel very good about the outreach efforts that are occurring here in this state. Many, many questions and many, many issues that were brought up have been worked on, and we're dealing with them. And I think it's-- I think overall, it's going very, very well.

Frederica Freyberg:

What do people most want answered when they went to these sessions?  

Ted Nickel:

You know, it's interesting, Frederica. There's a lot of confusion out there in the market, and there's a lot of confusion out there with consumers. So what we heard the most of was a couple of things. And I'll just quickly run through them. The first one was many of these events had a significant amount of participation from seniors. And what we needed to remind them of was this-- The Affordable Care Act, and the things that are going to begin on October 1 and into January, do not affect seniors. They are okay. They can go do other things. These are for individuals who need health insurance or need access to health insurance. So the focus has been on that group and not on seniors. So we wanted to make that very clear. The other big issue that came up was really-- And this was a response from an individual to one of the folks there was, you know, as they heard the presentation-- And we shared a lot of information with folks, very honest, very truthful information, about what they need to do, where they need to be going forward. It turns out that this person's analysis was, you know, this isn't going to be that hard to get the insurance, get signed up for insurance. What a lot of the staff, and what a lot of my staff has been dealing with, has been very complicated and very difficult. But when it comes right down to it, an individual looking to purchase health insurance, either through the exchange or with their agent, or if they go through an income verification process and they're eligible for Medicaid, that process is not that difficult. And I think we've cleared up a lot of misconceptions there.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, that's very positive news, and we appreciate the hard lifting that all of the experts have done to make it not so difficult. But in terms of the cost or the price, I know that your office this week put out these, kind of, charts of comparisons. And it showed, for example, that it would cost a lot more, these charts that you put out, rates from pre- to post-2014, when these plans go into effect. In fact, you cited a 21-year-old in Madison would be paying nearly 125% more. What was that based on?  

Ted Nickel:

So that's-- That's a really long, complicated answer, but I will try-- I will try to make it as simple as possible. Number one, the-- Many folks have been looking for something. So we've been getting questions over and over and over about, what are the rates going to be? What's it going to look like? What are people going to have to pay? And what we've been saying and what we've been telling them is, based on the filings we've had, the information is so difficult to sort through, that it's best for consumers to simply wait until October 1 when the exchanges go live. You can plug your specific information in, your age, your demographics, where you might live, whether you're a smoker or not, or whether your family– Plug all that information in, and once you plug that into the exchange, you're going to get a number. And that makes the most sense for you.

Frederica Freyberg:

You know what–

Ted Nickel:

The chart that we released this week, Frederica, was simply a very, very simple analysis that we did-- It was difficult to go through, but it was a very simple analysis trying to compare a policy that is in place right now for a single individual with a $2,000 deductible and drug coverage, to what the companies have filed with us going forward. And once you change one little variable here and there, those numbers change quite dramatically. So what we tried to do was provide some sense as to what we see now versus– In one simple instance, what we see now versus what is going to be out there come January of 2014. But it's not-- it's not as simple as just saying age-- You know, plug in two factors and you're going to get the same statewide. It's just not that simple. So-- But we did hear from a lot of folks saying they wanted something. So what we did is provided them with an analysis. And you're right, it has generated a little bit of discussion this week.

Frederica Freyberg:

It certainly has. We leave it there. Commissioner Nickel, thanks very much.

Ted Nickel:

Thanks for having me. Appreciate being here. 


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