Officials say exchange staffers have to interact with consumers who report changes.

Managers of the public exchanges run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are trying to cut down on use of traditional mail. HHS wants to keep consumers and their assisters, including agents and brokers, from reporting changes that might affect the consumers’ eligibility for health benefits programs through the mail.

Consumers and their helpers would have to report any changes that could affect eligibility through the Web, through calls to telephone call centers, or through in-person interactions with “navigators, certified application counselors and other in-person assistance personnel.”

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Medicaid enrollees would still be able to report changes through mailed correspondence. Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), an arm of HHS, included the proposed change in the new draft regulations that could set up an auto-reenrollment system for the HHS-run public exchanges. CMS is preparing to publish the draft regulations in the Federal Register on Tuesday.

Consumers who get premium subsidies or other subsidies for “qualified health plan” (QHP) coverage purchased through a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange are supposed to communicate with the exchange to report many different kinds of changes that could affect eligibility. QHP enrollees are supposed to notify the exchange when they get married, have changes in disability status, become pregnant, or gaining or losing dependents.

The mail is not a practical method for getting change information because automated systems or live humans will need to interact with the consumers to ask follow-up questions, officials say.

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