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Insurers to fill gaps in Ohio health care marketplace

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    The HealthCare.gov web site home page as seen in Washington. The Ohio Department of Insurance announced Monday that 19 of the 20 counties that would have been without an insurance option on the federal exchange will have access to at least one plan in 2018.

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    A volunteer health care worker wears a T-shirt getting people to sign up for the new health care programs.

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COLUMBUS — Five health-insurance companies have stepped in to offer plans on the federal exchange in 19 of the 20 Ohio counties that otherwise would have had no marketplace options for 2018, state officials announced Monday.

Paulding County in northwest Ohio is now the only county in the state without at least one insurer offering plans through the insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Buckeye Health Plan, Paramount Health Care, CareSource, Medical Mutual of Ohio and Molina Health Care of Ohio will offer marketplace coverage in the 19 other counties.

VIDEO: Lauren Lindstrom discusses health care options in northwest Ohio

“Ohio has long had a strong insurance system, and once again our insurers stepped up at an important time for thousands of Ohioans, taking unprecedented action to provide access to health insurance for Ohioans who otherwise were without options,” state insurance director Jillian Froment said in a statement Monday.

The move by the insurance companies affects an estimated 11,000 Ohioans in the 19 counties who purchase a plan through the exchange, according to the state insurance department. County-specific figures were not available.

The announcement comes after insurance giant Anthem, citing uncertainty in the market, said in June that it would not offer marketplace plans in Ohio next year, leaving nearly two dozen counties without a single insurer. Among them were Hancock, Paulding, and Van Wert counties.

Now Molina and Medical Mutual will offer coverage in Hancock County; Buckeye will do so in Van Wert.

Details about the types of plans and rates will not be available until the insurers sign contracts with the federal government in late September. Despite securing an option for nearly every county, “there is more work to do” in Paulding County, Ms. Froment said.

“We will continue working with the industry, but those efforts are heavily dependent on market stability and clarity from Washington,” she said. “We encourage Congress to work on ways to stabilize our health-insurance markets.”

Randal Ruge, chief executive officer at Paulding County Hospital, said the lack of marketplace options will have an impact on the community served by the county’s only hospital.

“It’s going to be an issue,” Mr. Ruge said. “We’ll be reaching out to our elected officials and encouraging them to put us on equal footing to the rest of Ohio to make sure our residents have a plan to choose.”

Julie Grasson, assistant director of Toledo/​Lucas County CareNet, which oversees the enrollment navigator program in northwest Ohio, hailed the announcement as good news for the counties that again have an option. Navigators will help Paulding County residents seek other choices, including Medicaid if they are eligible.

They will also help them connect them with insurance brokers to purchase plans outside the marketplace.

Chris Brock, spokesman for the state insurance department, said Medical Mutual had agreed to offer 2018 plans in Mercer and Auglaize counties, where Anthem subsidiary Community Insurance Company was the only marketplace insurer in 2017.

In Williams and Wyandot counties, Paramount will offer marketplace coverage again in 2018. The ProMedica-affiliated insurance company had “proposed to not offer in those counties next year and has agreed to come back,” Mr. Brock said.

Those who have questions can call the Ohio Department of Insurance at 1-800-686-1526. Enrollment for 2018 plans on the federal exchange opens Nov. 1 online at healthcare.gov and runs through Dec. 15.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154 or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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