ADEA Washington Update

Affordable Care Act’s Open Enrollment Problems Examined

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Republicans are trying to draw attention to various problems related to readiness, testing and the functionality of the insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as the October 1 start of the first open enrollment season approaches.

On September 10, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health held a hearing at which Republicans raised questions about open enrollment. Officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have vowed that most problems would be corrected by the October deadline, but GOP lawmakers were not reassured.

“My constituents are understandably confused about what is happening with the exchanges, enrollment, and premiums,” Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) said in a statement. “Considering the administration’s track record on deadlines and delays, reassurances from CMS officials are not comforting.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has entered into contracts with private entities to help implement portions of the ACA. Several contractors who testified at the hearing said they foresaw problems ahead.

W. Brett Graham, the managing director of Leavitt Partners’ Center for Exchange Intelligence, said ongoing problems associated with ACA implementation will result in negative consequences for open enrollment. He told subcommittee members that “most, if not all, exchanges will experience a rocky enrollment period as they work to overcome both known and unknown operational challenges.”

Edward Lenz, senior counsel for the American Staffing Association, represented the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care (E-FLEX) Coalition at the hearing. He testified that the health care law’s definition of full time employment as 30 hours of service per week is well below what most employers consider to be full time “and is creating perverse economic incentives to reduce employee hours.”

“Because the law requires employers to measure their workforces in 2014 to comply in 2015, the 30-hour definition is already having an adverse impact,” Lenz said in a statement. “Once the labor market shifts, employees won’t be able to recapture lost wages, flexible hours, or more generous benefits.”

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