Waiting for 2014 is a bit like being a child excitedly
anticipating Christmas or Hanukkah. It just can’t get here quickly enough.
Thinking about the concept of “no wrong door” and streamlined, paperless
enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP certainly leaves me with visions of sugarplums
dancing in my head.
As we approach the holidays, our friends in Wisconsin
have a little present for you and it means you don’t have wait until 2014 to
get a sneak preview of an Exchange. Wisconsin has created an Exchange Prototype that simulates the consumer’s experience in
obtaining affordable health insurance through a single web portal that
integrates access to Medicaid and CHIP (called Badgercare+ in Wisconsin), along
with the new Exchange insurance plans. I’ve heard Jim Jones, Wisconsin Deputy
Medicaid Director, talk about this simulator but seeing is believing. The
hardest part about maneuvering the website for me was figuring out if I wanted
to be 27 and single again or 64 and retired. Hmmmmmm.
Now your first reaction might be that it’s too good to be
true. And it’s a bit scary to see the kind of information about you that the
state can access. How did they know who my kids are or where I worked? But
let’s face it, the reality is they have that information anyway and now you get
to see it and correct it if it’s wrong (sort of like your credit report).
Ultimately, it means that these systems are expected to have real-time access
to data so 1) you don’t have to enter data they already know and 2) your
eligibility can be determined immediately. Now that’s something to be joyful
I will say that for someone who is not savvy about
insurance, it still will be a bit difficult to understand some of the
terminology. A high-deductible plan is a bronze plan, an HMO is a silver plan
and a PPO is a gold plan. We’ll need to figure out better ways to explain these
concepts. It would help if a little box would pop up asking if I need help or
want to chat when I seem to be stuck on a page. And one can hope that when the
Exchanges go live, we’ll see that.
The simulator allowed me to rank the importance of seven
elements such as quality of care, low premiums and customer service to help
identify plans that would match my needs. I was happy to see that I could pay
through the Exchange (hopefully for my child in CHIP and my insurance
together). I also got to choose my preferred choice of communications: mail,
e-mail, or text. But a few things on my list were missing, like choosing to be
contacted by phone or setting up automatic payments (although that might be in
“manage my account,” a feature not yet enabled). And I was particularly pleased
to be asked if I wanted my premium to be updated if my tax credit were to
change. That might help avoid people being charged more than they should be or,
worse, getting stuck with a tax bill because their credit should have been
All in all, this is a great start and I encourage others
to treat themselves to a visit to the site. At the end, there is a survey
asking for your feedback, which will help Wisconsin and other states make these
websites even more useful. If you want to see and hear more, check out this
webinar on the Wisconsin Exchange
Prototype that State Coverage Initiatives is hosting on December 21.