This year, the managers of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) public exchange program have to compete for attention with another HHS agency — the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the arm of HHS that oversees the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange program in all states and runs exchange enrollment in a majority of the states, kicked off its 2015 renewal marketing effort Wednesday.
The 2015 PPACA exchange open enrollment period is supposed to start Nov. 15, 2014 and end Feb. 15, 2015. CMS is trying to get people who already have qualified health plan (QHP) coverage from an exchange to log in and update application information, to protect themselves against the huge tax bills that could slam PPACA subsidy users who fail to give the subsidy calculators correct income information.
CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner was also trying to get the exchange program some credit for expanding its QHP menus. She noted in the announcement that the exchanges had attracted 25 percent more issuers for 2015.
Meanwhile, around the same time, the Texas Department of State Health Services was reporting that a second Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital nurse had tested positive for Ebola.
Instead of publicizing the PPACA exchange system by holding hearings attacking it, Republicans in Congress are holding hearings on the Obama administration’s Ebola response.
Managers of state-based exchanges and companies with private health insurance marketing efforts tied in to the HHS open enrollment marketing campaign may also have to struggle against the Ebola effect.
In California, for example, managers of Covered California said they have started sending a wave of renewal notices to the 1.1 million exchange QHP enrollees there. Exchange managers are starting with 1,300 service center representatives — about three times as many as it had Oct. 1, 2013, when the 2014 open enrollment period started.
Covered California will be running more ads featuring testimonials from real QHP enrollees, and it will be expanding support for the 12,000 certified exchange insurance agents, by adding more call lines for agents.
Managers of HealthCare.com, for example, recently launched a private health insurance comparison site of their own. They are hoping consumers — especially those who will not be eligible for PPACA premium subsidies, and get not special advantages from buying coverage through a PPACA exchange — will use their site to buy major medical coverage and related products, such as critical illness insurance and accident insurance.
At press time on Friday, most of the stories in the Google News health news section were about Ebola. None was about health insurance or the PPACA exchange program.
Similarly, in Los Angeles, on Friday, just a day after Covered California announced its 2015 QHP renewal campaign, the top story on the website of the Los Angeles Times was about the possible effects of the Ebola outbreak on the November elections. Readers had to click through to a health care business section to find the latest story about the state’s exchange program.