The federal health insurance marketplace has identified almost 2,800 Oklahomans as eligible for a state Medicaid program, but it's unknown whether any of them have signed up for the program.
Since Oct. 1, 2,747 Oklahomans have applied for health insurance coverage through the federal marketplace and been identified through their applications as eligible for either Medicaid or the children's Medicaid program — but the federal government has not finished creating a system to transmit that information to Oklahoma's Medicaid agency.
The federal health insurance marketplace was created through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and serves as a resource for people without health care coverage to enroll in private health insurance.
Oklahoma is one of 36 states that chose to use the federal health insurance marketplace, rather than create its own state-based marketplace.
Ideally, when people apply for coverage and are eligible for Medicaid, their information would be seamlessly transmitted to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma's Medicaid program that largely serves low-income children.
However, that has yet to happen.
Jennie Melendez, a spokeswoman at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, said the federal government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has told the agency that it will complete the system by the week of Jan. 20.
“That date just keeps getting pushed back,” she said.
Media outlets in other states have reported similar issues.
Kaiser Health News reported Monday that in five states alone — Florida, Texas, Illinois, South Carolina and Arizona — about 148,000 people are still waiting to get enrolled in the public programs after trying to sign up through Healthcare.gov.
“The Healthcare.gov website used by 36 states has been unable to transfer income and other data from applications to the state agencies that run Medicaid, the state-federal program for low-income adults, and the children's insurance program,” Kaiser Health News reported. “As a result, tens of thousands of applicants have been left in limbo — without coverage that was supposed to begin Jan. 1.”
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority completed its side of the system Dec. 9.
When a person applies for Medicaid in Oklahoma, the agency's system can send that person's application to HealthCare.gov if the person isn't eligible for Medicaid. This will allow people to complete one application, rather than entering a large amount of information twice and dealing with both agencies' applications processes.
About 98 percent of the people who apply for Medicaid in Oklahoma do so electronically. This puts Oklahoma ahead of other states that still have a majority of their Medicaid applicants fill out paper applications.
The health care authority does receive some information on the 2,000-plus applicants. Each week, the agency receives what's known as a “flat file,” which is similar to an Excel spreadsheet. The flat file includes the names, incomes and genders, of the people that the federal marketplace has identified as eligible for Medicaid.
However, the agency hasn't used the information to reach out to applicants for a variety of reasons.
For one, Melendez said they don't have the people to do that. Secondly, the data from the flat file might not be accurate.
“They are encouraging some of the states in the federally facilitated marketplaces to look at using the flat file as a temporary solution until the account transfer is fully operational,” Melendez said. “We would be using the information from that flat file to do outreach and enroll people, but that wasn't something we were staffed for ... It just seems the resources that it would take to follow-up on that flat file would be wasteful, since it isn't very accurate.”