“That’s how we designed our product offering,’’ he said. “We kept it relatively simple.’’
Molina Healthcare executives also stuck with the simple and familiar.
The insurer specializes in delivering healthcare to low-income consumers, particularly those who use Medicaid, the state-federal insurance program for the poor and disabled. Molina has about 1.8 million customers nationwide and created plans to sell on the individual market in nine states, including Florida, said Mario Molina, a physician and chief executive of Molina Healthcare, which his father founded in the 1980s.
The insurer has about 81,000 members in Florida’s Medicaid managed care program but has no experience selling individual health plans anywhere in the country. It is offering three HMO plans each in Miami-Dade and Broward.
Molina said he hopes to leverage the company’s experience serving low-income clients and its familiarity with what he called “a culture of poverty.’’ Molina believes many of the consumers who will buy subsidized plans on the exchange will have similar needs and habits as Medicaid clients.
“The strategy is really to dovetail with our Medicaid business,’’ he said. “Medicaid is essentially an individual market for low-income patients ... and Medicaid has premiums that are paid for by the state. The reason we went after the exchange is we feel there are a lot of similarities.’’
He said the two issues that matter most to low-income consumers are their relationship with their primary doctor and out-of-pocket costs. Transportation also is key. The company has built its clinics in other states near bus stops or light-rail systems.
Among the doctors and clinics in Molina’s provider network for South Florida are federally qualified health centers that see large numbers of low-income and uninsured clients.
The insurer has a large presence in California and Washington, Molina said, but company executives are still learning about South Florida — a knowledge gap that they bridged with cost estimates calculated by actuaries.
“Everything is an estimate,’’ Molina said. “We’re making estimates about what these patients look like, what services they need, how often they’re going to see a doctor, how often they’re going to be in the hospital, what their drug costs are likely to be.’’
While insurers such as Molina are eager to learn more about South Florida, consumers have been overwhelming the online marketplace at HealthCare.gov in the past week, causing delays or shutting out visitors altogether.
HHS officials reported Friday that they would take down the application portion of HealthCare.gov during “off peak hours” over the weekend to allow more simultaneous users to create an account and move through the application and shopping process.
HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters reported that HealthCare.gov received 8.6 million unique visitors in the first three days, while the call center handled 406,000 calls and web operators received 225,000 requests for online chats.
Peters said HHS added more technicians and trained representatives to handle calls to the marketplace’s toll free number, 800-318-2596.
Florida insurers confirmed that some consumers had successfully used the exchange to enroll for health plans in the first few days after the Oct. 1 launch, though none would say exactly how many. Some hinted at additional technical difficulties between their computer systems and the federal government’s.