Humana COO Predicts Extension of Exchange Open Enrollment
On Wednesday, Humana Chief Operating Officer Jim Murray said he expects the Obama administration will extend the open enrollment period for the federal health insurance exchange beyond March 31 and delay the individual mandate penalty because of the rocky rollout of the exchange's website, Reuters reports (Humer/Cornwell, Reuters, 11/6).
During a conference call with investors, Murray also revealed that Humana -- one of the largest insurers in the nation -- has cut by half its previous estimate of 500,000 new enrollments by March 31 because of the problems facing HealthCare.gov, Kaiser Health News' "Capsules" reports (Galewitz, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 11/6).
According to Reuters, Murray's comments offer the first indications of the effects that the problem-plagued website is having on the health insurance industry and the expectations for enrollment in the federal exchange (Reuters, 11/6).
Murray said Humana lowered its enrollment projection to about 250,000 based on guidance that it received from "government entities," which he did not identify (Shabad, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/6). He noted that the company is waiting for further guidance from government officials on "whether they are going to change mandates and whether they are going to do things to extend the enrollment period."
Sebelius: Delays 'Not an Option;' AHIP Opposes Extension
However, during a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejected calls from some lawmakers to delay the end of the open enrollment period. She said delaying any additional parts of the Affordable Care Act is "not an option" and added, "We are still at the beginning of a six-month open enrollment that ends at the end of March, and there's plenty of time to sign up for the new plans" (Reuters, 11/6).
CMS spokesperson Julie Bataille echoed Sebelius' comment during her daily press update on the HealthCare.gov repairs, saying, "Consumers still have ample time to enroll in the six-month open enrollment period" ("Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 11/6).
In addition, America's Health Insurance Plans -- the insurance industry's lobbying group -- has said it opposes an enrollment extension, arguing that it could result in a heavier concentration of sicker and more costly individuals enrolling in coverage. Earlier this week, AHIP spokesperson Robert Zirkelbach said a one-year extension "could have a destabilizing effect on insurance markets, resulting in higher premiums and coverage disruptions" (Reuters, 11/6).
Aetna CEO: Shut Down HealthCare.gov, Fix 'The Stuff That Isn't Working'
Meanwhile, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini at an event last week said the administration should "[p]ush the pause button" on the ACA and pull HealthCare.gov offline completely until it can function properly.
Bertolini said," When you get into this kind of situation with technology, you just don't have a short-term solution." He said that if the administration shuts down the website "right now" to fix "the stuff that isn't working, ... five to 10 years from now nobody's going to remember " its botched rollout (Neff, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/6).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.