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IT'S GETTING LATE: Obamacare health plans postponed yet again

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A step crucial to the launch of the new healthcare law has been delayed by the Obama administration. The signing of he final agreements with insurance plans to be sold on federal health insurance exchanges now begins October 1.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has notified insurance companies that it won't be signing final agreements with the plans between September 5 and 9, as originally planned. The signings have been rescheduled for mid-September, according to insurance industry sources.

Spokeswoman for HHS Joanne Peters says that the department remains "on track to open" the marketplaces on time on October 1. Peters says that only that the government was responding to "feedback" from the companies, "providing additional flexibility and time to handle technical requests."

The reason for the hold-up remains unknown. Sources attributed it to technology problems involving the display of insurance products within the federal information technology system.

Arriving when state and federal officials are still working to overcome challenges to the information technology systems necessary to make the exchanges work, some experts predict even a small delay could jeopardize the start of the six-month open enrollment period.

U.S. officials have said repeatedly that the marketplaces, which are the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform law, would begin on time.

However, the October 1 deadline has already begun to falter at the state level, with Oregon announcing plans to scale back the launch of its own marketplace and California saying it would consider a similar move.

"It makes me wonder if open enrollment can start on October 1," a former administration official who worked to implement Obama's healthcare reform said.

"But having everything ready on October 1 is not a critical issue. What matters to people is January 1, which is when the coverage is supposed to start. If that were delayed, it would be a substantive setback."

Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is purported to extend federally subsidized health coverage to an estimated 7 million uninsured Americans in 2014 through the marketplaces it will establish. It is highly controversial, for many reasons, and faces growing resistance.

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