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Taxpayers Pay Twice For Some Obamacare Enrollees

Updated: Apr 13

Congrats, taxpayers: you get to hold the bag!

Congrats, taxpayers: you get to hold the bag!

News broke late last week that nearly 5,000 Arkansans would be kicked off of the Obamacare “private option” program. Now, as more details emerge, it looks like things are even worse than they first appeared. There are two big concerns, which are both hinted at in yesterday’s Democrat-Gazette story on this scandal. Here’s a snippet:

Among those who received the notices was Cheryl Cohen, 58, who owns Village Nutrition, a health-food store in Hot Springs Village, with her husband, David. After she was told she qualified for Medicaid, her husband dropped her from his insurance policy with his job at a sales and marketing company.

The takeaway (and the problem) here: government — both at the federal and state level — has now created an incentive for Arkansans to drop private insurance coverage and take the “free” stuff instead. Don’t get me wrong: Cheryl Cohen does not actually qualify for Medicaid (at least not this week); so she ultimately cannot stay enrolled in it. But a few weeks ago, when she thought she had a choice, she quickly abandoned her husband’s plan and jumped onto the “free,” taxpayer-funded system. Here’s the big picture: when given the choice between paying for something and letting someone else pay for it, there’s (obviously) a large incentive to choose the “free” plan. Architects of the “private” option don’t want to accept this reality, but it’s one that they’ve helped bring to Arkansas. The Dem-Gaz story also revealed that one of the PO enrollees that is being removed from the program actually had two Obamacare plans. Apparently the enrollee had been enrolled in the Medicaid-PO by the state — but was also paying a premium for a “non-Medicaid plan on the exchange.” This means taxpayers have been paying twice for this individual’s enrollment in Obamacare.   This type of mistake is easy to make, according to DHS spokesperson Amy Webb. She told the Dem-Gaz that an applicant could be enrolled in two different exchange plans “if they submitted multiple applications with slightly different information.” The Arkansas Project reached out to Webb twice for further comment, hoping to learn just how widespread this problem is and what steps DHS is taking to make sure dual enrollments don’t continue. I’m still not sure we know the answer to those two questions, but here’s the statement Webb supplied:

It’s possible that an individual could have had coverage at the federal level and that individual’s name was mistakenly sent by federal authorities to the state for coverage through the Health Care Independence Program. That situation could have resulted from a person putting in more than one application through and including slightly different or mis-keyed information on the applications. If we determine that that has happened, we notify federal authorities and cancel the Health Care Independence Program coverage. DHS routinely talks with federal officials about any inaccuracies or issues with the data provided in an effort to ensure the data we receive is more reliable and complete.
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