Managers of HealthCare.gov have to do a better job of running HealthCare.gov, but many of the coverage issuers need to do a better job of adapting to the new health insurance world that the Affordable Care Act created.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the HHS agency that runs HealthCare.gov and other ACA programs, delivered that message Wednesday at a HealthCare.gov issuer meeting in Washington.
HHS officials prefer to call HealthCare.gov exchange enrollment system the “Health Insurance Marketplace.”
HHS officials organized the issuer meeting to get ready for the 2017 individual health insurance open enrollment period, which is set to start Nov. 1 and run until Jan. 31.
HHS officials were also working to get ideas from issuers, have issuers share ideas with each other, and dispel the idea that the ACA exchange system, or online supermarket for health coverage, might be turning into a dead mall.
Some insurance agents and brokers may sell exchange coverage and want the exchange system to survive to help exchange plan sales, or sales of supplemental products. Other agents may be following exchange news solely because they compete against it and want it gone sooner, rather than later.
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Andrew Slavitt, the acting CMS administrator, talked about good exchange news.
Burwell told attendees the ACA exchange system helped cut the U.S. uninsured rate to 8.6 percent, a new record low.
“We learned that marketplace consumers are just as satisfied with their coverage as people with insurance through their employer,” Burwell said, according to a written version of her remarks posted on the HHS website. “While we’re always working to improve affordability, we’ve learned that Marketplace products stack up well against employer coverage on that dimension as well.”
Burwell and Slavitt also talked about some of the problems hanging over HealthCare.gov:
Sylvia Mathews Burwell says HHS has listened to issuers’ ideas about how to make the exchange system work better. (Photo: HHS)
Burwell promises to work to improve HealthCare.gov
Burwell said HHS has listened to issuers and taken concrete steps to respond to their concerns.
“Two words we heard a lot were ‘retention’ and ‘relationships,’” Burwell said.
Some consumers use exchange plan coverage to fill in gaps when they are between jobs, or when they are moving between different types of coverage, Burwell said.
In other cases, consumers have left exchange plans without ever paying any premium bills, Burwell said.
Burwell said HealthCare.gov managers have already improved their ability to retain enrollees who are facing problems with documenting their income or immigration status.
Burwell said HHS also has toughened enforcement of the applicant eligibility verification process and revised a program that shifts cash from issuers with what look like low-risk enrollees to issuers that appear to have higher-risk enrollees.