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White House passes exchange pay question

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Reporters should ask insurers, not federal officials, for information about early federal exchange plan premium payments.

Josh Earnest, the White House principal deputy press secretary, gave that advice Wednesday during a press briefing on Air Force One, according to a transcript provided by the White House.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, runs or helps run the new public health insurance exchange programs in 34 states.

Managers of some state-based exchanges have given information on the number of consumers who have actually paid for private exchange plans, or “qualified health plans.”

HHS has reported the number of people who have selected QHP coverage, but it has not given any information about paid QHP enrollment through the HHS-run exchanges.

PPACA opponents have speculated that true paid QHP enrollment may be considerably lower than the number of people who have picked QHP coverage.

CMS recently estimated that a total of 4 million people have picked QHP coverage through state-based or HHS-run exchanges.

When a reporter asked Earnest how many of the 4 million people have paid for coverage, Earnest said PPACA is a reform of the private health insurance system, and that the people who have signed up for QHPs now have private coverage.

“Those payments that are made by these new customers are directed to and sent to the private insurance companies themselves,” Earnest said, according to the transcript.

Questions about who has paid for coverage can best be directed to the insurance companies collecting the payments, Earnest said.

Earnest said the Obama administration might eventually have some insight into QHP payment numbers, but he said he didn’t know when the insight would be available.

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