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Regulations from Obama administration hinder state insurance exchanges

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 15th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Online insurance companies are being hindered from new regulations attached to a new computer program. Approvals for policies are expected to run behind on account of several regulations courtesy of the Obama administration which are needed to update the software.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The online insurance companies, which were set to begin selling health coverage next October may be hampered by the delays in launching a key computer program. An electronic system most insurers will use to submit their policies for state and federal approvals won't be ready for testing next month, as originally planned.

The slowdown "creates another three-month delay," Dan Schuyler, a director at Leavitt Partners says. "They're not going to be ready."

Some think the delay will further stress insurance regulators and insurers, have much work to complete before next fall. Enrollment then is supposed to start in the exchanges, a critical part of the health law. Enrollment, set to begin Oct. 1 will be for policies that go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

An estimated nine million individuals are expected to use the markets that first year to shop and compare for coverage to find out if they are eligible for government subsidies.

However - due to the update, "it could make it difficult to have a robust and competitive marketplace on the exchanges," Kim Holland, a former Oklahoma insurance commissioner who is now executive director of state affairs for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association says.

The Obama administration says that the planning is moving forward, on schedule and that the exchanges will open on time.

Updating the System for Electronic Rate and Form Filing, known as SERFF, is just the latest difficulty in the planning for the online marketplaces. Many states stalled preparations as a result of the controversy surrounding the law, with many telling people to wait to see who won the election.

Even some supporters are arguing to postpone the opening of the marketplaces to give states and insurers more time.

"If I could wave a magic wand and change (the start) from 2014 to 2015, I would," Sandy Praeger, Kansas' elected insurance commissioner says. Kansas' plan for a state partnership exchange was rejected by Gov. Sam Brownback.  "But I don't know if [federal lawmakers] can do that."

Many technical and regulatory steps must be taken before the exchanges can open, including reviews of every type of policy submitted by insurers to determine they meet new standards for coverage and pricing. Those standards can't be incorporated into the review system, however, until several yet-to-be-issued federal rules are finalized.

"Without the rules, we can't get the (SERFF) system going," Holland says.

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