Oklahoma is among the states that will not create its own health insurance exchange as part of the mandates set forth through the federal health reform law.
In November, Gov. Mary Fallin announced Oklahoma would not create a state-based health insurance exchange. Instead, the federal government will establish and operate Oklahoma's exchange.
Starting in January 2014, people who are uninsured and meet certain income guidelines will be able to buy insurance directly through a health insurance exchange, known as the Health Insurance Marketplace, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Michael Mahoney, vice president of consumer marketing for GoHealth, answered questions about how health insurance exchanges will work. GoHealth is primarily a software company focused on the insurance industry.
What reasons have you heard states give for not creating their own exchanges?
Health insurance exchanges are part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal health reform law that some refer to as “Obamacare.” These exchanges will serve as online marketplaces where the uninsured can shop for health insurance.
“Truthfully, I believe the decision to leverage the federal exchange is more of a non-decision than a decision,” Mahoney said. “It's states not knowing what's going to happen, so they say, ‘Well, we'll leverage the federal exchange. If we decide to make our own later, we can always do that later.'”
Mahoney explains GoHealth as “an exchange before there were mandated exchanges.” GoHealth offers insurance quote comparisons on its website. The website is similar to Priceline.com for plane tickets.
GoHealth has a staff of people to operate its site and has a platform that allows the site to be updated frequently, he said.
Mahoney said if a state had an online exchange website, that website would need to have the capability to be updated as the latest information on what health insurance premiums and plans was released.
“I'm not sure that any state that we've talked to is set up with the capacity to handle that,” Mahoney said. “They're just scrambling to get a website up. I think Oklahoma is in with a lot of states, and they say ‘We don't know what's going to happen so we'd rather not take on this additional risk.'”