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Life Health > Health Insurance > Health Insurance

Exchange players prep for takeoff

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As House Republicans work to kill the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) by cutting off funding, public exchange builders are continuing to assume they have to raise the curtains Oct. 1.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it will wait until November to begin taking small-group exchange plan operations through the Web, but it also said that groups will be able to enroll through brokers and call centers Oct. 1.

Builders of state-based exchanges have been working hard to sell the idea that the exchange show is ready to open.

The District of Columbia Health Benefit Exchange Authority has posted a group photo of the first 94 assisters trained to help consumers use the D.C. Health Link exchange.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is posting examples of the TV ads, Web ads and billboards it’s using to promote the Washington Healthplanfinder exchange. One TV ad, for example, shows a skier tumbling down a mountain with the tagline, “Gambling man.”

Meanwhile, many consumers are expressing confusion, fear or both.

ComPsych, an employee assistance program company, polled workers at the employers it serves and found out that 28 percent said they are very worried about the “upcoming health care changes,” fear the changes will affect them significantly, and have no idea where to go for help.

Agent groups and insurers are trying to plant the idea that agents and brokers are good people to turn for help with navigating stormy PPACA seas.

The Texas Association of Health Underwriters (TAHU) paid to put out a national press release that gives answers to five frequently asked questions about PPACA, including, “Am I affected by the individual mandate?” and “How do I know if I qualify for a subsidy?” TAHU encourages consumers who want more information to get help from it with finding a local professional benefits advisor.

Aflac Inc. (NYSE:AFL) is promoting a “Health Care Reform Communications Toolkit” for employers with a national press release that mentions that “Aflac’s nationwide network of agents is also available to provide employers with information” to help them understand PPACA.

A consumer group, the Consumer Federation of America, has been trying to spread basic PPACA consumer protection information, such as, “There is no application fee or charge for assistance” for consumers who use the new exchanges.

As companies use business-to-consumer and business-to-employer press releases to try to reassure consumers and benefits buyers, technology companies and business services companies are sending out other business-to-insurer press releases that hint at the kinds of problems exchange plan issuers are facing.

TriZetto Corp., for example, announced that it is working with Gorman Health Group and Syntel to create a system that can handle the complicated process of billing exchange plan enrollees for their coverage.

TriZetto warns that a plan issuer could receive several payments in the same month for each individual enrollee, and that payment requirements for an individual could change as income level, family status or other circumstances change.

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