The Affordable Care Act requires each state to have a health insurance marketplace (otherwise known as a "health insurance exchange"). Originally, the plan was for each state to establish its own health insurance marketplace, or default to a federally-run exchange. After the ACA passed, the federal government offered a new “partnership exchange” model, which is to relieve some of the administrative burden on the state by providing federal assistance. Illinois sent the federal government a blueprint application in November 2012 to establish a state-federal partnership exchange in 2014, with plan to transition to a state based exchange after 2015. The state is waiting for final approval of the blueprint.
On January 3, 2013, the federal Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight sent out guidance on how a partnership health insurance exchange will work. The guidance allows states like Illinois who plan to transition to a state based exchange to take on as much responsibility as possible for exchange activities such as administration, plan selection, and consumer assistance. This model is referred to as a State Plan Management Partnership Exchange.
A key role of a state exchange is to provide consumers assistance in enrolling in the exchange, understand their options for insurance coverage, make decisions about coverage, and coordinate with community based organizations. This consumer help will be provided by two programs, In-Person Assisters (IPA) and Navigators, which will be separate but closely coordinated. The Navigator program will be run by the Federal government, and Illinois will develop the IPA program. Since Illinois has historic connections in the community and their understanding of the state-specific insurance, Medicaid and supplemental state health programs, the IPA program will be the primary contact for consumers and for insurance companies.
Community Based Organizations, consumer assistance organizations, medical and social service providers will all play an important role in ensuring that the Illinois state federal partnership exchange is efficient and accessible. Consumer advocates should work cooperatively with the state and federal governments to ensure that whichever agencies are responsible for administering parts of the exchange, that the end result is a coordinated system that works well for the people who need insurance coverage, including the small employers who need to purchase insurance for their employees.
Programs & Policy Director
Health & Disability Advocates