HHS: Exchanges will be ready on time

A senior official with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services said Thursday that both state- and federally-run health insurance exchanges will be able to open on time next year, despite widespread doubts to the contrary.

"I am confident that states and the federal government will be ready in 10 months," Gary Cohen, who is overseeing exchange implementation for HHS, said at a House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee hearing, according to The Hill's Healthwatch.      

Cohen said "the planning, development and testing necessary to build the exchanges is well underway." He added that HHS officials are "on the phone every day" with states to help them establish exchanges, Kaiser Health News reported.

However, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) wasn't convinced of the agency's progress. "The administration has yet to explain how it will share information between three different federal agencies involved in determining eligibility for the exchange, how it will distribute the income subsidies to beneficiaries to purchase coverage in the exchange, or how a state will be able to afford the administrative costs to deal with eligibility changes," he said at the hearing.

Also testifying before the panel, Republican state leaders from Louisiana, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania said they need more guidance about how HHS will run the exchanges and to what extent state health agencies will interact with the online marketplaces. They claim the reform law's timelines aren't realistic and called many requirements too rigid or unclear, KHN noted.

But some Democratic lawmakers accused those state officials of using implementation problems as a pretext to killing the law entirely, reported LifeHealthPro. "Their next move is to delay implementation under the guise of a lack of information," Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said.

To learn more:
- here's the House hearing testimony
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- see The Hill's Healthwatch article
- check out the LifeHealthPro article