Health Reform Weekly
A weekly compilation from Aetna of health care-related developments in Washington, D.C. and state legislatures across the country.
Week of October 28, 2013
With Congress now focused on dissecting the troubled rollout of health insurance exchanges, the Obama administration is making modifications to its marketplace schedule and is facing pressure to do more. The administration announced last week that it will issue new guidance pushing back the date by which individuals must have health care coverage or face a penalty. The new date, March 31, 2014, coincides with the end date for the open enrollment sign-up period. Late last week, 10 Senate Democrats signed on to a letter calling on the administration to extend the open enrollment period, by an unspecified period, as well. Another Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, is urging a one-year delay in the mandate. Meanwhile, experts called in to fix the website are predicting an end to the majority of problems by late November. Even if the projection is accurate, many fear enrollment in exchanges will suffer as a result of the significant rollout issues.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a lengthy hearing last week on the initial rollout of the exchanges and the healthcare.gov website, with the contractors handling key Affordable Care Act (ACA) implementation issues testifying. They testified that the problems with the healthcare.gov website are fixable, but they declined to provide a specific timeframe. In response to questions, the witnesses emphasized that they tested the functionality of the systems they designed and that CMS, in its role as system integrator, was responsible for end-to-end testing of the website. They testified that end-to-end testing occurred only during the final two weeks of September. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is expected to testify at another oversight hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on October 30. In addition, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner is scheduled to testify at an October 29 House Ways and Means Committee hearing.