HealthCare.Gov Confusion Continues: Wisconsin State Agency Distributes Paper Applications FeaturedWritten by Amber Trucke
Why is the Wisconsin Department of Health Services mailing out paper applications to enroll in the federal healthcare exchanges? That is what one local Milwaukee resident was wondering when she received an envelope containing a lengthy and confusing 26 page application, instructing her to return the document to the London, Kentucky based Health Insurance Marketplace.
For privacy reasons, the college-educated Milwaukee African American mother of four wishes to remain unnamed. However, in her remarks to the Wisconsin Free, she was quite open in venting her frustrations. “It is confusing in some areas and lengthy with many pages back to back. If it is difficult for me, I wonder what a homeless person will do?”
“And it is such a joke,” she laughed. “At the bottom of each page it says, ‘Need Help With Your Application? Visit Healthcare.gov.’ If the website worked in the first place I wouldn’t need a paper application!”
So why did she receive the letter in the first place? According to Claire Smith, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Office of the Secretary, the letter is one of several ways the department is reaching out to individuals affected by recent changes to the state’s Medicaid program, BadgerCare Plus.
Smith said in late September and early October the Department began sending out informational notices to current BadgerCare Plus members letting them know that they may be transitioning to the exchange, may have a monthly premium, or that the BadgerCare Plus Core and Basic Programs are ending on December 31, 2013.
Citing current technical issues with Healthcare.gov, Smith said the Department will continue to reach out to transitioning individuals while the federal government works to fix its online portal. Despite these efforts, however, the 26 page document that was mailed to roughly 77,000 individuals contains limited amounts of information for people to make important decisions about the future of their healthcare.
Recipients were informed that they were no longer eligible for BadgerCare and would be transitioned to the exchanges. They were told to follow the instructions for the application, mail it in, and then wait to be contacted by a representative. The letters also stressed the importance of signing up by Dec. 15 in order to have coverage start on Jan. 1, 2014, and that their first premium must be paid on time in order for the coverage to begin.
They were not told, however, whether or not their premium would increase or what the guidelines for that decision were. No possible scenarios were given, nor were any definite answers provided on what types of credits they might be eligible for. Applicants were simply told to ‘hurry up and wait’: hurry up and fill out the lengthy and cumbersome application, wait then to be contacted, and be prepared to possibly make a payment. And they have very little time to comply, let alone see what their options are – especially since healthcare.gov is still mostly unavailable.
The goal of Obamacare was to get affordable healthcare to all Americans, yet those who must rely on the government for healthcare are now feeling as though the future of their health insurance coverage is in jeopardy. They are being asked to navigate through complicated forms because the site that was supposed to make the process easier isn’t working properly.
In the face of this current crisis, Governor Walker has called a special legislative session to extend BadgerCare Plus coverage to March 31, thereby ensuring recipients remain covered as they transition to the Federal Marketplace.
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A native of Waterford, Wisconsin, Amber studied journalism and political science at UW-Waukesha before finishing studies at UW-Milwaukee. She gained government experience as a communications intern at the State Capitol and now works with the WisconsinFree on investigative reports and as a general beat writer. She loves puppies and politics, but most of all a good cookie.
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