Sebelius in Chicago to push health insurance ‘marketplace’

Chicago Health Care Daily reports:

“U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will appear in Chicago today to kick off the rebranding of health insurance exchanges as “marketplaces” for health coverage.

A key part of President Barack Obama’s health reform law, the state-level exchanges are intended to be online sites where consumers and small businesses can shop and compare health insurance plans.

With less than eight months to go before the sites are set to go live on Oct. 1 for open enrollment, state and federal officials are mounting a final public relations push to maximize participation in the exchanges. Having more customers will mean the marketplaces will function more effectively, experts say.

Only 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to set up exchanges, according to the Menlo Park, Calif.-based Kaiser Family Foundation. State officials estimate that about 486,000 people will obtain insurance through the Illinois exchange.

For the first year, Illinois’ exchange will be jointly run by the federal government, though state officials say it will shift to state control in 2015.

Ms. Sebelius is set to appear with Gov. Pat Quinn this afternoon at Erie Family Health Center, a community clinic on the West Side. Her visit comes the day after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in Washington.

After using the term “health insurance exchange” for months, HHS has already changed to the term “Health Insurance Marketplace” in some of its online materials as it tries to raise awareness of the program. Characterizing the exchanges as such may reduce some confusion. For instance, Illinois is creating a health information exchange to help health care providers more effectively share medical records.

An HHS spokesman declined to offer specifics on today’s announcement.

Mr. Quinn last week in his State of the State speech  urged Illinois lawmakers to pass legislation to formally establish the state’s stand-alone health insurance exchange for 2015, along with a bill on another key provision of the Affordable Care Act that would expand Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor.

“The governor is looking forward to hosting Secretary Sebelius and updating her on our work to launch the ACA in Illinois, which will provide quality, affordable health care for hundreds of thousands and create thousands of good jobs in the health care field,” a state spokesman said in a statement.

The health care law’s mandate requires individuals to carry health insurance and businesses with at least 50 employees to offer it to their workers. The exchanges are supposed to be marketplaces where companies and individuals who don’t qualify for Medicaid are supposed to buy coverage.”