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States see potential opportunity in court ruling

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jun 25, 2015
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The King v. Burwell case before the Supreme Court is a challenge to the health care law, saying health insurance subsidies should only go to people who bought insurance on state-run exchanges. A decision is expected in days, and if the Court rules against the Obama administration, people in states using the federal insurance marketplace would lose their subsidies.

And they might just turn to Connecticut for help. Connecticut succeeded in launching its own insurance marketplace, or exchange, that worked even as the federal government and other states struggled. 

Now Connecticut is getting calls from states on the federal exchange, who might want to use Connecticut’s software if they have to set up their own marketplaces, says Jim Wadleigh, CEO of Access Health Connecticut, the Connecticut exchange. 

“We’ve probably gotten over a dozen calls from other states,” he says, estimating that 90 percent of the calls were from officials in Republican-led states. Wadleigh won’t say which ones, “because it would create quite a political maelstrom that I’m trying to stay out of,” he says.

Wadleigh sends interested states to Carolyn Quattrocki for a reference. Quattrocki is executive director of Maryland’s exchange, the Maryland Health Connection, which started using Connecticut’s software last year.

“It’s really worked tremendously well,” Quattrocki says.

Maryland switched to Connecticut’s software after Maryland’s own exchange failed. Quattrocki says Maryland got Connecticut’s software for free, because it was developed with federal money. Since then, Connecticut has paid to create new products that it can sell, like a mobile app. 

Maryland isn’t interested in that feature yet, but Quattrocki says when they are ready, they’ll look for the best deal, as would other states. 

“I think it becomes a purely financial question of what kind of IT system to use,” says Sabrina Corlette, a senior research fellow at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

Corlette says Connecticut has a very good reputation, but will have to compete with private companies offering their own exchange blueprints, just in case the Supreme Court ruling sends states scrambling to set up their own insurance marketplaces.  

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