Witness Testifies: “… It can be expected that most, if not all, exchanges will experience a rocky enrollment period as they work to overcome both known and unknown operational challenges.”
WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), today heard from a number of groups responsible for the implementation of the president’s health care law on the readiness and functionality of the federal health exchanges. With open enrollment scheduled to commence on October 1st, contractors have been tasked by the administration with the creation and operation of the exchanges. These contractors will assist with many aspects of the exchanges including IT buildup, eligibility verification, development of procedures for the receipt and processing of paper applications, and the creation of a data services hub to route information between agencies, contractors, and exchanges. With only three weeks remaining before open enrollment, serious questions and concerns remain.
“On August 1, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified before the full committee on implementation of the Affordable Care Act. She assured us that despite numerous delays – including one-year delays of the ‘employee choice’ provision of the SHOP Exchanges, the employer mandate, and verification of eligibility for insurance subsidies – that the exchanges would be ready on October 1 to begin enrolling Americans in new health plans and that implementation of the law’s other provisions was on track,” said Pitts. “Obamacare’s implementation involves a litany of federal and state agencies. My constituents are understandably confused about what is happening with the exchanges, enrollment, and premiums. Considering the administration’s track record on deadlines and delays, reassurances from CMS officials are not comforting.”
“We are now three weeks from the exchanges opening for enrollment, and questions and uncertainties continue to overwhelm,” said Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “Issues related to readiness testing and functionality of the exchanges have yet to be addressed. Missed deadlines, delays and untimely guidance will affect critical components of the exchanges, including eligibility determinations, integration with existing state programs, and coordination among agencies.”
W. Brett Graham, Partner and Managing Director of Leavitt Partners’ Center for Exchange Intelligence told members, “it can be expected that most, if not all, exchanges will experience a rocky enrollment period as they work to overcome both known and unknown operational challenges.” Graham explained that the ongoing problems associated with implementation will result in negative consequences for open enrollment. “There will be technical issues that will impede a consumer’s ability to enroll in a seamless and timely manner. There will be challenges to consumers understanding the system and getting necessary assistance. Until properly addressed, these challenges could reduce usability of the system and impact the user experience. More importantly, these challenges could diminish exchanges’ success in increasing consumer choice and access to appropriate health insurance coverage.”
Edward Lenz, Senior Counsel for the American Staffing Association representing the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care (E-FLEX) Coalition testified that the health care law’s definition of full time employment as 30 hours of service per week is “significantly below what most employers consider to be full time and is creating a perverse economic incentives to reduce employee hours.” Lenz added “Because the law requires employers to measure their workforces in 2014 to comply in 2015, the 30-hour definition is already having an adverse impact. Once the labor market shifts, employees won’t be able to recapture lost wages, flexible hours, or more generous benefits.”
Read the complete statements and testimonies online here.