Health Insurance Exchanges: What’s happening in Missouri?
Posted on August 18, 2011 by Megan Burke
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) establishes the development of the new health insurance marketplaces called Health Insurance Exchanges. Exchanges are places where individuals and small businesses can purchase affordable health insurance coverage. States have the choice to either develop their own exchange or default to the federal health insurance exchange. If Missouri chooses to set up an exchange, it must be ready to go by January 1, 2013 (there may be some flexibility on this date due to some new regulations coming from HHS). Missouri recently received an Exchange Establishment Grant for around $20 million to build a health insurance exchange for Missouri.
During the 2011 Missouri legislative session, HB609, which would have established the authority for Missouri to move forward in developing an exchange, was debated and passed unanimously by the House. It stalled in the Senate and did not become law. Subsequently, the Senate established an interim committee on health insurance exchanges to determine if Missouri should develop an exchange.
The Senate Interim Committee on Health Insurance Exchanges had its first hearing on August 16th in Kansas City. The hearing lasted over four hours, with the majority of the time being spent questioning Attorney General Koster about the various ACA lawsuits and Director Huff, Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration, about Missouri’s efforts to build an exchange and the establishment grant. The testimony and questioning was weighted very heavily on the side of those who oppose the health insurance exchanges.
I was invited to provide expert testimony on behalf of Paraquad and the Disability Coalition on Healthcare Reform (DCHR). I was honestly the only voice speaking strongly in favor of the health insurance exchange. This isn’t because Missourians don’t support the concept of a state run health insurance exchange, but due to how the hearing was facilitated. It was not a strong public process as those of the public who came to testify did not get an opportunity due to so much time being spent on the expert testimony. There were many advocates present prepared to testify in favor of the exchanges, and share their personal stories about limited access to affordable health coverage. Hopefully the public will have better opportunity to testify at future hearings in Springfield (Sept. 9th) and Jefferson City (Sept. 15th).
Paraquad and DCHR support an exchange that has fair rules and consumer protections so that people can access affordable healthcare. For far too long, people with disabilities have essentially been shut out of the health insurance market. A state based health insurance exchange would give the people of Missouri an opportunity to develop a market place that best meets their needs if the state makes policy choices to ensure the exchange effectively extends coverage, protects consumers, assures quality of plans and affordability of premiums and other costs.
Learn more about why Paraquad and DCHR support a state-run health insurance exchange in Missouri.