Basic Health Plan

New York

In my post a few weeks ago about Minnesota's plan to dramatically expand their existing Basic Health Plan (BHP) program, MinnesotaCare, into a full-fledged Public Option open to residents not currently eligible for the program, I made an offhand reference to similar BHP expansion-related news happening in New York State. However, I haven't gotten around to actually writing about NY's BHP program until now.

New York's implementation of the ACA's BHP provision (Section 1331 of the law) is called the Essential Plan, and it already serves over eleven times as many people as Minnesota's does (around 1.1 million vs. 100K). Part of this is obviously due to New York having a larger population, but that's only part of it (NY has 19.84M residents, just 3.5x higher than MN's 5.71M).

Whenever I write about BHPs I always throw in a simple explainer about what it is, with an assist from Louise Norris:


There's been a LOT of buzz among healthcare wonks over the past week about major developments happening with the ACA's Basic Health Plan (BHP) programs in both Minnesota and New York State. This article is about Minnesota; I'll post about what's happening in New York separately.

As Louise Norris explains:

Under the ACA, most states have expanded Medicaid to people with income up to 138 percent of the poverty level. But people with incomes very close to the Medicaid eligibility cutoff frequently experience changes in income that result in switching from Medicaid to ACA’s qualified health plans (QHPs) and back. This “churning” creates fluctuating healthcare costs and premiums, and increased administrative work for the insureds, the QHP carriers and Medicaid programs.

The out-of-pocket differences between Medicaid and QHPs are significant, even for people with incomes just above the Medicaid eligibility threshold who qualify for cost-sharing subsidies.


Back in May, I first wrote about news that two additional states, Oregon and Kentucky, had decided to join New York and Minnesota in launching a Basic Health Plan (BHP) program under a provision allowing them to do so in the Affordable Care Act:

The Basic Health Program (BHP) – section 1331 of the ACA — was envisioned as a solution, although most states did not establish a BHP. Under the ACA (aka Obamacare), states have the option to create a Basic Health Program for people with incomes a little above the upper limit for Medicaid eligibility, and for legal immigrants who aren’t eligible for Medicaid because of the five-year waiting period.

The way BHPs work, once established, is like so:


I originally wrote this post in May; I'm reposting it with some updates below:

I haven't written much about the ACA's Basic Health Plan (BHP) program for awhile, aside from noting that it's well past time for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to start including BHP enrollment in their official Open Enrollment Period reports, seeing how over a million people in Minnesota & New York now have healthcare coverage via BHP policies.

As a refresher, here's Louise Norris' summary explainer: