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17-12-2012 | Article

Many states are passive about health exchanges despite deadline


Kaiser Health News

medwireNews: Over 30 states chose to put the ball in the federal government's court by refusing to set up a version of health exchanges on Friday 14 December, the deadline for states to declare their intentions regarding online marketplaces.

More than half of these states either gave up on devising a way to establish the exchanges or never made an attempt in the first place, demanding more federal involvement than was originally expected when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010.

The online marketplaces would provide a service similar to buying airline tickets on the Internet, where an estimated 25 million people will be able to purchase health insurance coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Obama administration - through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - has urged states to find a way to prepare and run their own exchanges in accordance with the ACA, figuring that states would know how to best deliver healthcare locally. But rather than assisting low-population states, such as Montana and Delaware, the government will also have to help the majority of states, including the populous states of Texas and Florida, according to Kaiser Health.

While the HHS claims to be prepared for this larger-than-expected responsibility and able to provide open enrollment by October 1, 2013, others fear - and even bank on - the task being herculean enough to demand reconsideration of this cornerstone of health insurance expansion.

"There is little to suggest the federal government is prepared to handle this volume or what the contingency plans are to ensure quality service to consumers," Wisconsin health secretary Dennis Smith claimed in a written congressional testimony.

Although states can no longer opt for their own health exchange, they still have 2 months to decide on a collaborative effort with the HHS.

"We're still very hopeful that by February, more states will come in and want to be in a partnership with us so they can have control over some of the real consumer-facing aspects of running an exchange," Gary Cohen, head of the HHS office that oversees the health law's insurance market reform, told Politico. "But that, of course, remains to be seen."

Cohen added that the number of states that end up reliant on the government to set up and run the exchanges is not a concern, as long as the technology that handles the eligibility and enrollment of the newly insured individuals is in place.

By Peter Sergo, medwireNews Reporter