The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hopes to take bids from insurers that want to participate in the federal health insurance exchange programs from March 28 to April 30.
HHS officials hope to make decisions about which plans will appear on the exchange menus in each state in July, according to Gary Cohen, the director of the federal Center for Consumer Information & Oversight (CCIIO).
Cohen acknowledged that everyone is wondering whether the federal exchanges will be ready to sell coverage by the Oct. 1 deadline set by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA).
“We will be ready,” Cohen said.
Cohen appeared today at a hearing on the PPACA health insurance exchange program that was organized by the Senate Finance Committee.
CCIIO — an agency that pronounces its name as “See-Sigh-O” — is an arm of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which is, in turn, an arm of HHS.
HHS and CMS created CCIIO to take charge of implementing many major PPACA provisions.
PPACA calls for HHS to work with state officials to set up a system of exchanges, or Web-based health insurance supermarkets, to help individuals and small employers shop for high-quality, affordable health coverage.
States can handle all or part of the exchange duties if they want, but HHS expects to help or take full responsibility for running exchange programs in more than half of the states in 2014.
Cohen faced tough questions from Democrats on the committee as well as from Republicans.