With the rollout of Obamacare exchanges just months away, federal officials are concerned the implementation may feel like a “third world experience.”
The Commonwealth Fund reported:
Federal officials are developing contingency plans in case the health insurance exchanges are not fully ready to begin enrolling people on Oct. 1, the head of the agency that’s building the massive 50-state marketplace structure said last week.
Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, also said there is “some possibility” that some states now conditionally approved to run their own marketplaces might not be able to launch them on Oct. 1. But he vowed that every state will have an exchange, which could mean the federal government might have to have more of a role than anticipated in states that can’t get to the finish line in time.
His remarks at a national policy meeting of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) marked the first time that Health and Human Services (HHS) leaders have veered even slightly from their insistence that exchanges will be totally functional by Oct. 1. Cohen’s comments came on the same day that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius conducted her second closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Finance Committee to discuss the health care law’s implementation.
Making contingency plans for October is necessary, Cohen said. “I think it’s only prudent to not assume everything is going to work perfectly on day one and to make sure that we’ve got plans in place to address things that may happen,” added Cohen, whose division is part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Cohen appeared on an AHIP panel with Henry Chao, a CMS official who’s overseeing the technology for the exchange launch.
Chao was frank about the stress and tension of the compressed time frame involved in setting up the exchanges. “We are under 200 days from open enrollment, and I’m pretty nervous,’’ he said. “I don’t know about you,” he added, to murmurs from the insurance industry audience. Members peppered Chao and Cohen with many questions about the format for the health care policies they will submit to HHS for approval so the plans can be marketed in the exchanges.
Chao said the main objective is to get the exchanges up and running and signing up the uninsured. “The time for debating about the size of text on the screen or the color or is it a world-class user experience, that’s what we used to talk about two years ago,” he said. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience.”
Cohen said his staff continues to work toward the October start date and expects that the exchanges will be ready to oversee enrollment in insurance plans by individuals and small businesses.
Obamacare will drive premiums sky high for younger and healthier Americans. (Investors)