HHS To Delay Signing Final Health Plan Agreements for Exchanges
On Tuesday, HHS informed health insurers that it is delaying a deadline to sign final agreements on the health plans that will be available to consumers through many of the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges, Reuters reports.
The department told insurers that it will sign agreements in mid-September, instead of between Sept. 5 and Sept. 9 as originally scheduled. The causes for the delay are unclear, but some sources cited technology-related issues with the online display of insurance products within the government's information technology system, Reuters reports.
According to Reuters, the delay will primarily affect insurance plans that will be sold through the 34 exchanges that are being operated in partnership or solely by the federal government.
HHS spokesperson Joanne Peters said that federal officials are responding to "feedback" from the insurers and are "providing additional flexibility and time to handle technical requests." She reiterated that the online marketplaces are "on track to open" on time.
However, some observers have argued that such obstacles could delay open enrollment in the exchanges and negatively affect the marketplaces. A former Obama administration official who helped to implement the law said, "It makes me wonder if open enrollment can start on Oct. 1." The unidentified official added, "But having everything ready on Oct. 1 is not a critical issue. What matters to people is Jan. 1, which is when the coverage is supposed to start. If that were delayed, it would be a substantive setback."
The delay at the federal level comes amid similar setbacks at the state level, Reuters reports. Oregon recently announced plans to scale back the launch of its state-run exchange, while officials in California are considering a similar move (Morgan/Humer, Reuters, 8/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.