Oregon may restart state-based insurance exchange

Earlier this year, Oregon became the first state to completely replace its own health insurance exchange by switching to the federal exchange. But now faced with a new fee to use Healthcare.gov, Oregon officials are investigating the possibility of running their own exchange again, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The federal health insurance portal had been free, but the government is planning to charge some states a fee in the future. Faced with that expense, Oregon officials plan to request proposals this month for software that is already successfully running at an existing state exchange, the Post said.

The planned fee applies to four states--Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico and Hawaii--that have switched from their own state-run exchanges to the federal website. The government is proposing a fee of 3 percent of the monthly premiums, which would be paid by insurance carriers that offer plans in those states through HealthCare.gov, the report said. Carriers are expected to pass the new costs on to consumers with higher premiums.

In Oregon, the fee would cost $13 million per year for its carriers, one state official said.

Oregon announced last April it was closing down its own exchange, Cover Oregon, which had been plagued with technical problems. State officials found it was cheaper to switch to HealthCare.gov than to put more money into fixing its state exchange. The switch took effect with the current enrollment period that began in November, and Oregon residents now use the federal site to enroll in coverage. The state has maintained some functions and continues to certify insurance plans and conduct community outreach and education, the report said.

At a hearing earlier this month, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt told lawmakers that despite some challenges, state-run exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act are making great strides and the federal government is doing all it can to ensure that grant money they receive is being properly spent.

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