Insurance commissioner says Wisconsin is in ‘great shape’ with exchanges

Although the U.S. government appears to be on the brink of shutting down, Wisconsin’s health care marketplace is ready for Tuesday’s Affordable Care Act rollout, according to Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel.

“We’re in great shape, as long as the exchanges go live and get running on Tuesday,” Nickel said on Sunday’s “Upfront with Mike Gousha,” a television program produced in partnership by BizTimes media partners WISN-Channel 12 and WisPolitics.com.

Although Wisconsin is one of many states that opted for a federally managed marketplace and declined funding to administer its own exchange, the insurance commissioner still regulates the health care plans offered through exchanges in the state. Nickel said his office is focused on getting information to up to 700,000 Wisconsin residents that could seek insurance: mostly Medicare recipients making more than 100 percent of the poverty line and the currently uninsured.

The Insurance Commissioner’s office staged 13 town hall meetings around the state to distribute information about the exchanges and to direct residents to visit www.healthcare.gov after Oct. 1 to find rate information. Nickel compared the web page functionality to retail sites such as Orbitz.com.

“You’re going to plug your information in and you will then see a list of plans that are available,” said Nickel. “That part of it is fairly easy.”

Nickel said his office did not release rate information ahead of the marketplace launch because there are too many variables influencing coverage costs. Insurance company filings indicate premiums will rise, according to Nickel, but federal subsidies will counteract the increase for eligible buyers.

“At the end of the day, the premium is still the premium,” said Nickel. “That insurance company that they’re with is still going to get whatever that number is.”

Advertising, used by many states to inform residents about new health care options, was rejected as an outreach tactic by the Insurance Commissioner’s office.

“‘I’m the government; I’m here to sell you something.’ How many people are going to go buy it?” asked Nickel.

Nickel pointed to the introduction of the Medicare prescription drug plan, saying recipients tended to turn to their pharmacist for advice in making a decision. Nickel recommended visiting local insurance agencies for guidance.

“People don’t just listen to the government,” said Nickel. “They go to people they trust; our message is go to someone you trust.”

To view Gousha’s interview with Nickel, click here.

The U.S. stock market dipped today, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing more than 110 points, as investors prepare for the prospect of a federal government shutdown at midnight.

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