HHS seeks comments for setting up the health insurance exchange system

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has requested public input for developing the health insurance exchange system required by the Affordable Care Act, reports the National Underwriter Life and Health.

The Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (OCIIO), a branch of HHS, is asking for suggestions regarding the planning and quality of exchanges, enrollment and eligibility, consumer experience, employer participation, and risk adjustments, among others.

According to the HHS, the state-level exchanges are "new, competitive, consumer-centered health insurance marketplaces," a "one-stop-shop" where consumers can compare and purchase health insurance.

In its call for comments, the OCIIO asks:

  • What are some of the major considerations involved in certifying QHPs under the exchanges?
  • How best can exchanges help consumers understand the quality and cost implications of their plan choices?
  • What types of efforts could be taken to reach individuals from diverse cultural origins and those with low literacy, disabilities, and limited English proficiency?

Comments are due Oct. 4.

In another move toward establishing the health exchange system, HHS announced the availability of up to $1 million in grants per state to help states plan and develop exchanges.

"With most states struggling to keep their budgets in balance, these grants will give them the resources to conduct the research and planning needed to build the health insurance marketplace of the future," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement.  "We are working hand-in-hand with states as we carefully implement the Exchanges to make sure they best meet people's health insurance needs."

States should have exchanges in operation by 2014, though the government will offer a federal alternative for residents of states that fail to meet the deadline, notes the National Underwriter. If a state decides not to create an exchange for its residents, HHS will help establish one on its behalf.

For more: 
- read the National Underwriter Life and Health article
- check out the HHS press release
- read the request for comment
- obtain a grant application

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