Health Insurance Exchanges Behind Schedule

Although there are still months to go until the health care reform law's health insurance exchanges need to be up and running, things are behind schedule, according to a new study.

Although there are still months to go until the health care reform law’s health insurance exchanges need to be up and running, things are behind schedule, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The “Status of CMS Efforts to Establish Federally Facilitated Health Insurance Exchanges” study was carried out by GAO to examine the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) role and preparedness to establish the federal-run health insurance exchanges.

CMS will operate exchanges in 34 states that will not be operating state-based exchanges; however, CMS is behind schedule for some of these exchanges, which must be running by Oct. 1 so that coverage can be effective as of Jan. 1, 2014.

According to GAO the activities remaining to establish these federally facilitated exchanges (FFE) “cross the core exchange functional areas of eligibility and enrollment, plan management, and consumer assistance.” Critical tasks like final testing with federal and states partners have not been completed by CMS.

“In the case of consumer assistance, for example, funding awards for Navigators — a key consumer assistance program — have been delayed by about 2 months, which has delayed training and other activities,” GAO wrote. “CMS is also depending on the states to implement specific FFE exchange functions, and CMS data show that many state activities remained to be completed and some were behind schedule.”

Further complicating the matter is that the activities that CMS plans to carry out in 15 exchanges are still evolving. If CMS misses additional deadlines closer to the start of enrollment, then it could affect implementation.

“Much progress has been made, but much remains to be accomplished within a relatively short amount of time,” GAO wrote.

GAO also released a second report on the states that will host their own small business exchanges. This report found that 44% of the key activities that should have been completed by March 31, 2013 were behind schedule.