July 14, 2013

Will health care exchanges be ready on time?

In less than three months, on Oct. 1, millions of Americans are expected to sign up for health insurance on the new state and federal exchanges set up under the Obamacare law.

But with time growing shorter, many of the people who are expected to make that system run smoothly are still waiting for instructions from the federal government.

For instance, the law provides funding for navigators, who will help consumers fill out the proper forms, determine if they qualify for health care subsidies and answer questions about different types of coverage. But the grants to organizations to act as navigators aren’t expected to be announced until August. That will leave less than two months to train hundreds, perhaps thousands, of individuals across the nation in a complex and ever-changing system. How are these navigators going to help consumers make informed decisions about their choices if they themselves don’t know all of the answers?

Meanwhile, the nation’s insurance brokers and agents are also waiting to see what sort of training and certification they’ll need to help their customers work through the exchanges.

Two weeks ago, the Obama administration announced it would delay a part of the health care law. The law requires all firms with the equivalent of 50 or more full-time employees to offer those workers health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014. The administration announced it would delay that requirement for one year, saying that the government would not be prepared to enforce it and needed more time to develop the systems needed to enforce it.

Officials are scrambling to set up the health care exchanges, but at this point it isn’t clear whether the federal government will be ready to roll them out on Oct. 1.


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