While the rest of the state was celebrating New Years Day, a few people at Idahos Department of Health and Welfare were rushing to send letters to thousands of Idahoans who hadnt enrolled in Medicaid because of technical problems at the federal level.
Now a team of five employees in Eastern Idaho is in charge of immediately getting people enrolled. It has been months since some of them tried to apply.
The problem isnt unique to Idaho. More than 100,000 of the nearly 270,000 people who used healthcare.gov to apply for insurance plans were told that they qualified for Medicaid or that their children qualified for the Childrens Health Insurance Program. But they never got enrolled because of software defects that failed to transfer their applications to state systems, The Washington Post reported.
Idaho has been using the federal healthcare.gov website since it launched Oct. 1 to enroll people in private insurance plans offered by Your Health Idaho, the state exchange. That website also ushered Medicaid-eligible Idahoans through the process of applying for, and enrolling in, the federal-state public program for low-income and disabled people.
The Department of Health and Welfare was supposed to get a batch of test files it could use to verify that healthcare.gov was enrolling people according to Idahos tight eligibility rules.
But the files didnt arrive in October. They didnt arrive in November, either. The week of Dec. 16, the office received three or four files, department spokesman Tom Shanahan told the Idaho Statesman. In the meantime, the department was hearing from people who reported problems being told they qualified for Idaho Medicaid when they didnt, for example.
We started becoming concerned, Shanahan said. If people were erroneously enrolled in Idaho Medicaid, it would take six months for them to lose those benefits, he said.
So on Dec. 24, the department told federal officials that it would reclaim control of Medicaid enrollments. The department got back a package of 6,000 names in 2,500 households people who tried to enroll and started putting together packets with applications.
Those packets went out by mail Jan. 2, after the departments New Years hustle to get them to the states mail contractor.
None of the people contacted had turned in applications as of Tuesday.
As for those electronic test files, they started to arrive last weekend. If it turns out everything is going right, then healthcare.gov might once again handle Medicaid applications until Idaho can get its own health exchange websites software up and running. The state hopes to leave healthcare.gov behind later this year.
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448