The buzz surrounding the new health insurance marketplaces reached a fever pitch at the end of 2013 with the announcement that the online portion of the federal small business marketplace will be delayed a year. This, added to stories of delays and glitches, created plenty of media fodder over the past few months. However, there’s another side to the story. While the partisan rhetoric has been flying in Washington over Healthcare.gov, the 17 states who chose to run their own marketplaces have been showing they can handle the challenge.
Why have states had an easier time running their own marketplaces? The reason is simple – marketplaces run by those who best understand their residents and their needs will be more successful. State insurance departments already oversee the insurance industry in their state, so they’re uniquely positioned to understand the health coverage needs of their residents. Two-thirds of the country left the handling of the marketplace up to the feds, but it’s not too late – states can take over their health insurance marketplace at any time.
One state setting the pace is Kentucky. Both its individual and small business portal have been models of success for state-run marketplaces. In a recent interview with Fortune, Carrie Banahan, director of the Office of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, said more than 1,000 small businesses have begun the enrollment process and about 400 companies have completed their applications. “Anytime a large scale program of this nature kicks off there are concerns along the way, but we feel that our state-centered process allowed us to address those,” Gov. Steve Beshear told NBC News in November.
Success stories are coming out of Colorado, too. “I’ve always provided full coverage for my employees, but the rising cost of healthcare has made it increasingly difficult,” said Rebecca Askew, CEO of Circuit Media in Denver, during our recent phone conversation. “For the past several years, we’ve had at least a 20 percent increase every year and had to switch insurance companies three times. Colorado’s health insurance marketplace allowed me to compare costs between providers, and my staff were able to pick the plan that works best for them. And for the first time in years, our costs aren’t going up and my company is receiving a tax credit for enrolling through the marketplace.”
The intent of the Affordable Care Act was for states to run their own marketplace and only defer the responsibility to the federal government if they felt unable to oversee it themselves. “I felt it was prudent and in Nevada’s best interest to have a state-run exchange,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Granted, every state running its own marketplace isn’t hitting all the marks. But the success stories demonstrate the value in states taking the reins. Based on the achievements of those that chose to do it in the first place, it’s something all states should consider.