By Andrew Kitchenman (Courtesy of NJ Spotlight)
Many New Jersey residents could encounter unnecessary detours on the path to obtaining health insurance either through Medicaid or the new Affordable Care Act marketplace exchanges, despite the federal government’s emphasis on having “no wrong doors” as people explore their coverage options.
As the October 1 registration date looms for people to begin signing up for coverage slated to start January 1, healthcare advocates are seeing potential problems that could prevent applying for insurance from being a seamless process. One example they cite is the lack of needed additional funding for county welfare offices expected to help enroll the hundreds of thousands of state residents newly eligible for Medicaid or subsidized coverage through the ACA.
Some health policy analysts blame Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to not have a state-run exchange for reducing the amount of time that state officials had to plan ways to make it easier for residents to determine which coverage they are eligible for and then sign up for it. State officials disagree, saying the system will still work, since people deemed not eligible for Medicaid will have their information forwarded by the welfare offices to the marketplace exchange, where they will be able to purchase insurance later.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act expands health coverage through two primary methods: the marketplace, in which residents will be able to buy one of several different health plans and learn whether they are eligible for insurance subsidies, and expansion of Medicaid eligibility for all low-income citizens and documented immigrants. In the three and a half years since the law was enacted, President Barack Obama and federal health officials have emphasized that people would be able to use the marketplace website to enroll either for Medicaid or insurance coverage through the exchange.
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