Why the Oct. 1 exchange enrollment date doesn't matter

Payers shouldn't be concerned if enrollment in health insurance exchanges seems lackluster at first. That's because the beginning of the enrollment period, Oct. 1, is an arbitrary deadline that states aren't really worried about.

In fact, Oct. 1 doesn't even appear in the reform law's text. Although open enrollment begins on that date, plans purchased through the online marketplaces don't take effect until Jan 1, which also is when the individual mandate is implemented. That's why state marketplaces are increasingly not worried about Oct. 1 as the important deadline, choosing to focus instead on preparing for Jan. 1, reported The Washington Post's Wonkblog.

States are, however, viewing Oct. 1 as an unofficial soft launch for their online marketplaces. Between Oct. 1 and Jan. 1, states will be perfecting their websites and ensuring enrollment processes are smooth. Essentially, Oct. 1 starts a test period for the exchanges, a time when states will be ironing out any glitches, the article noted.

For example, Oregon decided to initially open its exchange just to registered brokers and community assisters on Oct. 1 and will open the marketplace to the general public a few weeks later. That decision was driven by the state's desire to create a beta launch for its exchange.

"Even if we don't go live in the third week or fourth week, that will still give people plenty of time to go on and find a plan," Amy Fauver, a spokeswoman for Oregon's exchange, called Cover Oregon, told Wonkblog. "When Google launched Gmail you had to be invited. That was their beta launch. That was their way to identify bugs. Our benefit is that our initial users will be community partners who will be trained on the system."

And in California, the state's exchange said its website might not be completely operational by the time open enrollment begins on Oct. 1 as Covered California is still testing the technology needed to enroll consumers online, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Washington Post's Wonkblog article

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