Officials From Troubled Exchanges Say Repairs Are On Track
Top officials representing five problem-plagued, state-run health insurance exchanges assured lawmakers during a House hearing Thursday that they are taking steps to rectify the websites' technical and application processing difficulties, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 4/3).
Most of the officials -- from Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon -- also told members of the House Government & Oversight Reform Committee that their states will not require additional federal funding to resolve the problems (Reston, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/3).
The officials -- current and interim heads of the five exchanges -- acknowledged that the exchanges have been hobbled by technological issues similar to those that plagued the federal health insurance exchange website last year.
Joshua Sharfstein, chair of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, and Jean Yang, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Insurance Exchange, pointed to the exchanges' information technology contractors as the main source of the problems. Meanwhile, Scott Leitz, interim CEO of the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange, said, "Our launch was plagued by software errors and technical glitches" (New York Times, 4/3).
Some of the lawmakers questioned the officials about how much more money the states would need to make their exchanges operational. Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) also wondered why the problems persisted despite the states having received millions of dollars in federal aid to build and test the exchanges. He asked, "How many more taxpayer dollars may be requested to bail out troubled state exchanges next year?"
Four of the five officials reiterated that they would not need additional federal funding, in part because of the "ample grant awards" that the federal government distributed to the 14 states that opted to run their own exchanges, "Politics Now" reports.
However, Hawaii in recent weeks has signaled that they will need additional funds, mostly because significantly fewer residents enrolled in the state's exchange. The state has spent about $100 million in federal funds but signed up only about 7,596 people. The state still has $100 million in federal funding for operational costs, which can only be used in 2015. According to "Politics Now," the state needs about $15 million to run the exchange next year, and officials are currently considering adding fees on every health plan to offset the cost.
Meanwhile, panel members also singled out Maryland's troubled exchange. The state received about $180 million in federal funding but recently moved to dismiss its primary contractor in favor of spending an additional $40 to $50 million to switch to Connecticut's successful exchange platform. However, Sharfstein contended that the state intends to recoup the costs through legislation and try to return some of federal funds ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/3).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.