Federal officials late on health reform deadlines

Thanks to missed deadlines, delays and confusing regulations, reform efforts to improve health outcomes and lower costs could be stalled.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has missed several self-imposed deadlines to implementing Affordable Care Act provisions aimed at expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare, Kaiser Health News reported.

For example, federal health officials already fell behind on higher Medicaid reimbursements that were set to kick in Jan. 1, the article noted. Due to slow bureaucratic approval, Medicaid providers in several states, including Florida and California, have yet to see the increased payments.

Providers also are still waiting on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to issue a fine rule on the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, aimed at increasing transparency. The act, mandated by health reform, now is 16 months past deadline.

"We don't want to have people worse off because of the Affordable Care Act--that is not what Congress intended," Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said about delayed rules for a basic health program that would offer lower cost-sharing for residents who earn up to twice the federal poverty level, KHN noted.

But federal health officials aren't only missing deadlines; they're extending them. For instance, CMS delayed the timeline for healthcare organizations to convert to the ICD-10 coding system to Oct. 1, 2014. The decision to push back the new code set designed to improved patient care and reduced costs drew mixed reviews from the industry.

And twice last fall, HHS extended the deadline for states to decide whether they will create and run a health insurance exchange.

Federal health officials haven't even set a deadline for states to decide to expand their Medicaid programs. However, the Obama administration has warned states that postponing coverage expansion would cost them. With seemingly inconsistent directives, most states remain undecided on Medicaid expansion.

For more:
- read the KHN article