CMS sets sights on stabilizing Affordable Care Act exchanges

As the Obama administration winds down, federal health officials are focused on regulations that shore up the health insurance markets created by the Affordable Care Act and instill confidence in the insurers that operate in them, according to Inside Health Policy.

At a panel Wednesday hosted by McGraw Hill Financial, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff Mandy Cohen said "the theme of the year" is to maintain stability with the rules that govern the exchanges. That includes setting dates for open enrollment periods through 2019 and beyond as well as tweaking the risk adjustment program to ensure it works in the long run, the article notes.

However, CMS is also looking into ways to improve the marketplaces for insurers and consumers. Experts say the agency is likely to submit guidance on topics such as consumer operated and oriented plan (CO-OP) finances, quality ratings, the reinsurance program and "supported" exchanges in the coming months, according to the article.

The agency's handling of the struggling CO-OPs has come under fire in recent months from lawmakers who are concerned about recouping federal funds spent by the startups that have since folded.

In her comments during the panel, Cohen also pointed to CMS' recent changes to the special enrollment period verification process, which it issued in response to insurers' concerns about consumers' abuse of those signup periods. She said she also hopes the creation of voluntary standardized plans on Healthcare.gov will benefit both insurers and consumers--and that consumers won't feel they are being forced into a specific plan.

Some industry stakeholders, however, have pushed back against the idea of creating standardized Healthcare.gov plans, writing that they fear the policy "will hamper innovation and limit competition and choice," FierceHealthPayer has reported.

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Related Articles:
A closer look at CMS' new standardized exchange plan options
AHIP, insurers criticize proposed ACA marketplace reforms
CMS outlines changes to special enrollment period rules
CMS explores changes to risk adjustment program
Lawmakers slam oversight of failing CO-OPs

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