HHS vows exchanges will run October

Among marked concerns and a furry of questions from U.S. lawmakers, a Department of Health & Human Services official vowed that health insurance exchanges would be ready on time.

"We are making progress, we are on track and we will be ready," Gary Cohen, director of the HHS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, told the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.

But with only eight months left before the online marketplaces begin enrollment, the lawmakers weren't convinced, according to The New York Times. "I have a hard time understanding how the administration expects to have exchanges up and running by Oct. 1, especially when we have no details on how the exchanges will work in more than half the states," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

What's more, he added, only 16 states have committed to create their own exchanges, meaning HHS will be responsible for running more than 30 marketplaces. And it's uncertain whether those states will even be ready come October when, for example, Idaho still hasn't hired an information technology vendor to create its website, Kaiser Health News reported.

But Cohen insisted HHS has "a contingency plan for every eventuality," the Times noted.

Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said he doubs the marketplaces will successfully communicate with "archaic" computer systems at the Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Service. "We've got to get moving here," Baucus said. Cohen attempted to reassure Baucus that HHS will finish testing data flow between those agencies before October, Bloomberg reported.

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg article
- see the Kaiser Health News article
- check out the New York Times article