October 22, 2013

Alliant official says impact of Obamacare still not clear

Charles Oliver

— The Obama administration says more than 476,000 people have signed up on the state and federal health care exchanges created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act since they opened Oct. 1. But administration officials refuse to say how many have actually bought health insurance on the exchange.

Mark Mixer, vice president of Alliant Health Plans, says officials may not know. Alliant, a Dalton-based not-for-profit provider of health insurance, is one of just five companies selling on the exchange in Georgia. And Mixer says the company still doesn’t know how many Georgians have purchased insurance from it on the exchange.

“Here’s why. We get a file with a name on it. But that doesn’t mean anything. Many of these files are missing data, and none of them been effectuated, which means we have gotten no payment,” he said. “Even If I could say, to pick a number, 100 people have chosen Alliant, that means nothing until we receive payment.”

Mixer spoke Monday to the Kiwanis Club of Dalton at the trade center.

He asked how many people in the audience had been able to sign on to the exchange website. No one in the crowd of about 60 raised their hand.

“I’m not surprised. I haven’t been able to sign on, either, and I know how it’s supposed to work,” he said.

The federal exchange website, in particular, has been plagued with problems, and Obama said in a speech Monday he was disappointed with how it has worked so far.

Mixer said there is still plenty of time until Jan. 1, 2014, when the law requires all Americans to have health coverage, for the problems with the system to be fixed. And he said he thinks they will be fixed.

“I would say if they haven’t fixed these issues and people can’t access the site by the end of November and see what their options are I think this thing is in real jeopardy,” he said.

Mixer said that in Georgia the most expensive people to insure are typically charged rates seven times higher than what is charged to the healthiest, least costly to cover customers are. But he said the Obamacare law says that an insurance company can only charge its most expensive customers no more than three times what it charges its least expensive customers. Since the expensive customers will remain costly to cover, companies will raise the rates on its healthier customers to keep that ratio within the legal limit.

“Some of these healthier customers, who are mostly young, are going to get a sticker shock when they see their new rates,” he said.