Glitches Mar Exchange of Medicaid Data
People filling out insurance applications on the federal marketplace may learn they're eligible for Medicaid and their information is being sent to state officials to sign them up. However, states are getting unusable information because of technical problems that continue to plague the website.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed officials in Florida and 35 others states using the federal website last week they needed to try an alternative process. They must apply to enroll people that way temporarily.
Matt Salo of the National Association of Medicaid Directors says states are waiting to see if new files being sent as early as Tuesday are complete and accurate. He says people applying through the site may believe they're already enrolled or state officials will contact them, but the agencies have had no way to do that.
"Essentially, if you're a consumer on healthcare.gov, it will tell you you're eligible for Medicaid and the state agency will take care of it, but there's no real way for the state Medicaid agency to know anything about it," said Salo, who leads the nonpartisan membership group for state Medicaid chiefs.
As of Wednesday, Florida officials said they're waiting on the federal government to transfer 35,056 applications, representing 48,664 individuals, who are eligible for Medicaid and the children’s program, called CHIP.
But federal health officials warned the "the eligibility indicator field on the (data) is not accurate and we have no way to validate these numbers," said Alexis Lambert, spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families.
The federal marketplace was designed to help people buy private insurance under President Barack Obama's health overhaul. If shoppers qualified for Medicaid, the site was supposed to send their data to the Medicaid agency in their state.
As explained on healthcare.gov, "When you finish this application, we'll tell you which programs you and your family qualify for. If it looks like anyone is eligible for Medicaid, we'll let the Medicaid agency know so your coverage can start in 2014."
Federal officials say they have devised an alternative way of sending files including the patient information to the states. New files with more information could be sent as soon as Tuesday.
Salo said states are unsure the new files will be complete or accurate enough for enrollments.
"States that want to can take it as gospel and use the information to enroll people," he said. "But that sets up the question, how sure are we the information is going to be correct? Is hasn't been up until now. Can the state afford to just take that on faith?"