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Insurance companies in Wis. exchange released

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Associated Press
August 6, 2013

MADISON, Wis. — Thirteen insurance companies in Wisconsin want to offer coverage to individuals in the new marketplace established under President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul law.

The names of those interested were released Tuesday by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, but there were no details about how much the plans would cost or the extent of their coverage.

Nine companies, including eight that also want to be in the individual market, also intend to offer coverage to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

Walker is an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act and co-authored an op-ed piece last month in the Wall Street Journal with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal once again calling for it to be repealed. Walker rejected federal money to pay for an expansion of Medicaid under the law, and also refused to have the state set up the exchanges where people will be able to shop for insurance coverage.

The exchanges will be open for enrollment starting Oct. 1 and fully operational by Jan. 1. They will offer small businesses, individuals and families a choice of private health plans, similar to what workers at major companies get, with subsidies for low-income consumers.

It appears there will be coverage statewide, said Bobby Peterson, director of ABC for Health, a Madison-based public interest law firm that works to ensure that children and families get health care benefits and services.

“It’s a respectable spectrum of plans from across Wisconsin,” Peterson said of Tuesday’s companies. “I think it bodes well for competitive pricing in the marketplace.”

Still, it’s hard to know for sure because of the lack of information released by Walker’s Office of Commissioner of Insurance, said both Peterson and Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

Given Walker’s opposition to the law, the lack of details provided Tuesday “leads us to question motives, perhaps appropriately, perhaps not,” Peacock said. “It creates a certain skepticism. I want to try and give them the benefit of the doubt and assume we’ll get more information.”

A spokesman for the insurance commissioner’s office did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Other states, including Ohio and Florida, have given their residents more information about coverage areas and costs.

The exchanges are a key component of Obama’s health care law. They are supposed to transform the way individuals and small businesses buy private health insurance by increasing transparency and competition, bolstering government oversight of insurers and injecting hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

The exchanges will have the feel of an online travel site, where people can compare different private insurance plans.

Insurance company executives in Wisconsin have said they fear consumers will have a hard time navigating the exchanges, and it could take months to work out the kinks.

National surveys show that more than three-fourths of uninsured people know little about the new health care law. Nearly 560,000 Wisconsin residents, or 10 percent of the state population, are uninsured.

Several prominent insurers in Wisconsin are not participating in the exchange. That includes Anthem, Humana, Managed Health Services Insurance Corp., United Healthcare and WEA Trust, which offers insurance to Wisconsin school districts, state health plan members and local units of government.

Some of those that intend to participate include Dean Health Plan, Inc., Gunderson Health Plan, Inc., Physicians Plus Insurance Corp., and WPS Health Plan, Inc.



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