COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio has started to receive some of the more than 106,000 applications for Medicaid-eligible residents who sought health coverage through the federal insurance marketplace.
The first batch of cases, which had been in limbo for months, began arriving on Wednesday, said Sam Rossi, a spokesman for Ohio Medicaid.
Technical glitches initially plagued the federal website, HealthCare.gov, when it was launched in October. The site was designed to help people buy private insurance under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. If shoppers qualified for Medicaid, the site was supposed to send their data to the Medicaid agency in their state. But that transfer of data did not go as planned for the 36 states using the site, including Ohio.
Some of Ohio's applications date to the fall and many are riddled with defects, said Greg Moody, director of the Governor's Office of Health Transformation.
For instance, some people who applied through the federal site might not actually be eligible for Medicaid, the safety-net program for the poor and disabled. That unknown has put pressure on the state to sort out its cases before the March 31 deadline for people to sign up for insurance or face federal tax penalties under the new federal health care law.
"It's going to be close," Moody said in a Tuesday interview.
For those residents found ineligible for Medicaid, the state plans to alert them about seeking other coverage, he said.
The deadline matters less for Medicaid coverage because the program has no enrollment period and coverage is applied retroactively. Federal law requires Medicaid to cover allowable expenses in any of the three months prior to the date a person applies, not the date an application is approved. If there's a delay in processing the applications, Moody said, "coverage is good back until their application date and three months retroactive."
Since December, state officials have been directing those who believe they are eligible for Medicaid to sign up through an Ohio website -- www.benefits.ohio.gov.
Potential enrollees can use the state site instead of visiting county Job and Family Services offices, where many low-income residents apply for food stamps, cash assistance and other public programs. The site has received almost 135,000 Medicaid applications since Dec. 9. And more than 70 percent have been processed, according to Ohio Medicaid.
Moody said the federal data likely contains many duplicate cases.
The state will work with county caseworkers to process the applications, checking the names, addresses and other information on the applications against those who have already enrolled in the program. To help deal with the surge of applications, Ohio has freed up counties' access to federal funding for eligible expenses and made additional training available to the local offices.