Virginia's new state-based #ACA exchange has website, name & logo...but there's one little problem...
Last month I noted that Amy Lotven of Inside Health Policy had reported that Virginia's brand-new state-based ACA health insurance exchange had been officially approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:
Virginia is slated to become the nation’s 19th state-based exchange now that CMS has given officials the greenlight to fully transition away from healthcare.gov starting Nov. 1 for the 2024 plan year. Meanwhile, the State Corporation Commission (SCC), which administers the exchange, has suspended the state’s reinsurance program that had lowered premiums by about 20% for 2023, so individual plan rates are set to increase by an average 28.4%, according to a presentation made during an Aug. 9 hearing on the 2024 rates.
Virginia’s Health Benefit Exchange (VHBE) was enacted in 2020 by former Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and has been operating as a state-based exchange reliant on the federal platform (SBE-FP) since plan year 2021. The state paused the transition activity in 2021 after the enhanced premium tax credits were enacted but restarted it the following year.
In its Monday letter to VHBE Director Keven Patchett, CMS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) Director Ellen Montz congratulates the state on reaching a significant milestone, but also conditions CMS’ approval on successful completion of several functions. For example, while the state has proven that it can transfer plan data through the System for Electronic Rates & Forms Filing (SERFF), Virginia’s status as an SBE is reliant on completing the data transfer by Thursday (Aug. 17).
The good news is that it looks like VA has successfully checked off the final conditions and has been given the green light to launch the new site this fall. I noted at the time that...
...I still have no idea what the actual website domain/URL is for Virginia's new state-based ACA exchange, but I presume that will be announced soon.
Well, today Louise Norris gave me a heads up that sure enough, the new site has finally been launched, complete with a name and logo: Virginia's Insurance Marketplace, located at marketplace.virginia.gov. OK, it's not the most exciting name in the world, but that's fine. It's just a splashscreen for the moment; I assume the full site will go live within the next few weeks.
However, there's one little possible snag here: A lot of people are likely to plug in the state's abbreviation (VA) instead of the full name (Virginia) when they enter the domain name, right?
Well, here's the problem: VA is also the abbreviation for the Veteran's Administration.
This wouldn't be an issue if the Veteran's Administration simply agreed to repoint marketplace.va.gov to the Virginia exchange...but they're already using it for something called the "Diffusion Marketplace."
One solution would be to go with a different subdomain like healthcare.virginia.gov and ask the VA to repoint that subdomain instead. Another, clunkier workaround would be for the VA's Diffusion Marketplace to ad a big fat button at the top redirecting people seeking the Virginia ACA exchange.
Anyway, maybe it won't be too big of an issue after all... CoveredCalifornia.com doesn't redirect to CoveredCA.com either...another curious oversight, especially since the longer version doesn't currently go anywhere.
For that matter, many of the other state-based exchanges didn't grab the abbreviated (or longer) versions of their domains:
- ConnectForHealthColorado.com doesn't repoint to ConnectForHealthCO.com
- Oddly, however, C4HCO.com and Connect4HealthColorado.com do.
- MinnesotaSure.org doesn't repoint to MNsure.org
- YourHealthID.org doesn't repoint to YourHealthIdaho.org
...and so on.
In some cases the exchanges might not have been able to acquire the variant domains (after all, even HealthCare.Com doesn't redirect to HealthCare.Gov), but in other cases they could have but it apparently just never occurred to them to do so. Ah, well...hopefully Virginians have gotten used to the confusion with the Veterans Administration and are less likely to use the abbreviation for state government websites than those in other states?