Atlanta – Obama administration officials have not yet issued final health insurance exchange regulations, and the deadline for states that want to get the certification necessary to run their own exchanges is fast approaching.
Regulators talked about the delays here at the summer meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), Washington.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is in charge of implementing the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) that deal with the exchanges, or Web-based health insurance supermarkets.
PPACA lets states choose between running the exchanges themselves, sharing responsibility with HHS, or turning full responsibility for exchange services over to HHS.
Regulators from three states — West Virginia, Wisconsin and Rhode Island — talked about the effects of the HHS exchange rulemaking delays at an Exchanges Subgroup session.
West Virginia and Wisconsin have not decided what they want to do about the exchanges; Rhode Island is going ahead with building a state-run exchange program.
Jeremiah Samples, insurance program manager for West Virginia, said a state needs to understand the costs involved before making any decisions. A cost analysis will not be possible until HHS issues final rules, he said.
A state could have a huge problem if it goes ahead with implementing exchanges one way, then has to “unplug” the program if it finds another approach is more cost effective, Samples said.
“It is critical to get this right from the beginning,” Samples said.
Martin Swanson, assistant project director for the Nebraska Insurance Department, said his state believes it needs to see about 200 instances of rulemaking before it can make an educated decision about what to implement.
The only decision that has been made is that whatever form the exchange takes, it will be housed in the state’s insurance department, Swanson said.
Medicaid would have to be part of an exchange, and federal officials still have not explained how Medicaid will fit in an exchange system, Swanson said.
“We encourage our federal friends to get us an answer as soon as possible,” Swanson said.