Uninsured Numbers Soar in Virginia
In Virginia, one of the wealthiest states in the nation, the number of uninsured residents increased by 10 percent between 2009 and 2010, this is according to Virginia Health Care Foundation. This increase was three percent higher than the nation’s increase of seven percent. What’s even more astounding is that almost 15 percent of Virginia residents under the age of 65 do not have medical coverage. Virginia Health Exchange is a federally government run health insurance marketplace which will help reduce the number of uninsured in the state. The coverage starts on Jan 1st, 2014.
Obamacare Comes at a Good Time for Virginians
With 70% of uninsured Virginians falling below 200 percent of the nation’s poverty level, the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare will offer many poor residents a lifeline. 870,000 Virginia residents whose incomes fall between 100 and 400 percent of the Federal poverty limit (FPL) could be eligible for federal subsidies that will help them purchase health insurance through the Virginia health insurance marketplace.
Many Options Available through Virginia Health Exchange
Nine commercial health insurance companies have applied to sell qualified plans through the Virginia health exchange, which opens for enrollment on October 1. In addition, six companies have applied to sell through the state’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which will provide plans for companies with fewer than 50 employees to offer coverage to their workers.
|2||WellPoint's CareFirst BlueChoice|
|3||Aetna's Coventry Health Care|
|4||Group Hospitalization and Medical Services|
|6||Aetna's Innovation Health Insurance Co|
|7||Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States|
|8||Optima Health Plan|
|9||Piedmont Community HealthCare|
Four of those companies will operate in Roanoke Valley and in much of the New River Valley. Those companies are Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s HealthKeepers, Optima Health Plan, Aetna Life Insurance and Coventry Health Care. There will also be four other insurers operating in Bedford County, three operating in Floyd and Botetourt Counties and two in Alleghany County and the majority of Southwest Virginia, with the exception of Lee and Grayson counties. The number of companies operating on the Virginia health exchange promises to provide competition that will hopefully drive premiums lower.
Exchange is Federally OperatedThe insurers that have applied to offer plans through the Virginia health exchange are waiting for approval from the State Corporation Commission (SCC). Although the SCC will continue to manage the plans that are offered through the Virginia health insurance marketplace, the federal government will actually be operating the exchange itself. The state chose not to develop its own exchange, as many states are doing.
However, no one is certain exactly what the Virginia health exchange will look like when it’s finished. Much of the uncertainty is related to a June 19 report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that indicated that several vital components of the federal exchange have not been completed or tested. All of an enrollee’s vital information must be shared with no fewer than six federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. It is not yet known whether or not this data hub will be ready for business on October 1.
Rates Not Yet Known
The goal of the Virginia health exchange and other state exchanges is to spread medical costs over a larger group of people who are generally healthy, thereby making premiums lower for everyone. In addition, the federal subsidies are expected to help uninsured residents gain coverage and increase that pool of subscribers. That being said, the rates are not yet known because insurers can no longer exclude people from coverage, even if they have a pre-existing condition. Insurance companies expect rates to increase between six and 10 percent, but in Virginia, specifically in the Roanoke area, it is expected that rates will stay similar to what they are currently paying.