U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today assured yet another congressional panel that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchanges will be opening on schedule.
“We are moving ahead,” Sebelius said today at a House Energy & Commerce health subcommittee hearing on the HHS fiscal year 2014 budget request. “We are definitely going to be open for open enrollment starting Oct. 1 of 2013.”
Federal fiscal year 2014 will start Oct. 1.
Sebelius has given similar assurances about progress at the HHS PPACA exchange development program at HHS budget hearings organized by the Senate Finance Committee’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee and at the House Ways and Means Committee.
PPACA calls for HHS to work with state regulators to start exchanges, or health insurance supermarkets for individuals and small groups.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., suggested at the HELP hearing Wednesday that it looks as if the exchange program may be headed for a “train wreck.”
Congress has provided only $1 billion of the $10 billion that analysts originally said HHS would need to set up the exchange program, Sebelius said.
“We’ve judiciously used those resources,” and efforts to set up the “Hub,” the data center and call center to be at the heart of the exchange system, are going well, Sebelius said.
HHS will transfer money from prevention programs to fund exchange education and enrollment efforts, Sebelius said.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., said Sebelius should speak more frankly about the funding obstacles that Republicans have put in the way of PPACA implementation.
“They can’t come back and criticize if the outreach doesn’t occur if they’re not funding it,” Pallone said.
Republicans on the subcommittee asked whether Sebelius really has to use prevention fund money to pay for PPACA exchange outreach programs.