Oct. 7—The federal government's ability to enroll Medicaid beneficiaries through its central insurance website will be delayed for at least a month.

Applicants to healthcare.gov found eligible for coverage through their state’s Medicaid program will not have their data transmitted to the state program until November, a federal official confirmed to HFMA.

The delay could have serious impacts because the website was supposed to provide rapid enrollment for many of the 9 million people that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would gain Medicaid coverage in 2014. Federal officials have long touted the ability of the federal enrollment website to quickly determine whether applicants are eligible for Medicaid of exchange insurance coverage and to sign them up for coverage.

Supporters of the law downplayed the latest delay as not significant because the delayed data transfer will still come long before the Jan. 1, 2014, scheduled start of coverage to begin for the Medicaid beneficiaries. They also noted that even a delayed online application process is much improved over a current process that generally relies on time-consuming in-person paper applications.

The delay came as the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD) warned that problems could arise when the federal exchanges begin transferring large amounts of Medicaid eligibility information in November.

"With states ramping up for the Medicaid deadline in January, the additional [federally facilitated marketplace] transfers may increase the volume to a level that may impact system functionality and application processing, depending on staffing and systems capacity," stated a Oct. 7 NAMD update.

It was unclear whether the 17 states operating their own enrollment websites were similarly delaying the processing of their Medicaid applicants. The District of Columbia's exchange announced in September that it would not immediately be able to determine online whether people qualified for Medicaid.

The Medicaid delay followed the federal government’s September announcement that for the 33 states where it will operate all or part of the exchanges, small businesses would be unable to buy coverage online until November.

Publication Date: Monday, October 07, 2013