Thursday, April 19, 2018
Politics

Will insurance marketplace rollout be smooth sailing or 'a mess'?

WASHINGTON — Just seven weeks before the new state insurance marketplaces are set to open under the Affordable Care Act, it's unclear whether the long-anticipated October rollout will be a smooth operation or the "train wreck" that some have predicted.

Systems testing for the marketplaces is months behind schedule, according to recent government reports. So are funding and training for navigators, the outreach and enrollment workers who will help people choose marketplace health plans.

In a final bit of down-to-the-wire drama, the data hub, which routes information from the marketplaces to various federal databases, might not get its final stamp of approval until Sept. 30, the day before people begin using the marketplaces to enroll for health coverage next year under the law.

That timeline leaves the Obama administration and its information technology contractors virtually no margin for error as they fine-tune the system.

Any unforeseen setbacks or complications at that late date might postpone the October grand opening, which would be the most embarrassing public relations stumble yet for President Barack Obama's signature health law.

"I think there is a possibility that there could be a delay. I think it's unlikely, but I think there's a possibility," said Christopher Rasmussen, a policy analyst at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a nonprofit public policy organization.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains that concerns are unwarranted.

"We are on schedule and will be ready for the marketplaces to open on Oct. 1," HHS spokesman Brian Cook said.

While a train wreck may not be in the offing, a delayed opening of the state insurance marketplaces would ensure a "rocky" and "bumpy" ride, which "seems the order of the day in terms of how this rolls out in the next six months," said Gail Wilensky, a senior fellow at the international health care organization Project HOPE.

In recent weeks, the administration has had to delay several important provisions of the law. First, it announced a one-year delay of the "employer mandate," which required companies with 50 or more employees to provide affordable coverage to full-time workers.

Then came the decision that applicants to the marketplaces, which previously had been called "exchanges," would be taken at their word when providing information about their workplace coverage because the information wouldn't be able to be checked against their employers' data.

Earlier this year, the administration had agreed to a one-year waiver of a requirement that capped out-of-pocket spending for people with certain kinds of employer-based coverage.

Critics say the delays show how unwieldy and unmanageable the law is. Supporters say the moves haven't altered its core mission, which is to insure more Americans and make the health care system more transparent.

In a recent podcast for the journal Health Affairs, Wilensky said the information and technology concerns surrounding the marketplace operations might overshadow the recent good news from many states about the lower-than-expected cost of marketplace coverage.

"I don't have any doubt that if we were to try to do a full assessment about the workings of the (health law) program in the first quarter of 2014, it's not likely to look very good," she said.

Gerald Friedman, a health care economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, also was skeptical.

"It's not going to be a train wreck. It's going to be a mess," Friedman said. "I'm sure there'll be places where you get on the website on Oct. 1 and it'll crash. I think October is not going to be the White House's best month."

Getting the federally run marketplaces wired and working in 34 states by Oct. 1 has turned out to be a tough technological challenge. A report last week by the HHS inspector general's office found that the marketplace computer systems haven't been fully vetted. Department officials have downplayed the report, which was researched in May.

"We have made substantial progress in the three months since then," Cook said in a statement. "Our internal testing through August has helped us refine our security systems and eliminate potential security vulnerabilities."

Comments
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday. "Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked James Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, calling for the former FBI director to be imprisoned as Trump served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.Trump’s ...
Published: 04/15/18
President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 40 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, slightly more than his 36 percent approval rating when last measured in January. It’s also the highest he’s enjoyed in Post-ABC polling since his fi...
Published: 04/15/18
Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

DOVER, Del. — Gun rights supporters — many carrying rifles and ammunition — gathered at state capitols across the U.S. on Saturday to push back against efforts to pass stricter gun-control laws that they fear threaten their constitutional right to be...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

President Donald Trump will welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Mar-a-Lago this week in an effort to shore up their relationship amid strains in the U.S.-Japan alliance ahead of Trump’s potential summit with the leader of North Korea.Abe is...
Published: 04/14/18
Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council on Saturday that the United States is "locked and loaded," ready to launch another military strike if the Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again."I spoke to the president...
Published: 04/14/18
Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

WASHINGTON — As he declares the U.S.-led airstrikes against Syria a success, President Donald Trump is adopting a phrase that a previous president came to regret — "mission accomplished." On Saturday, Trump tweeted: "A perfectly executed strike last ...
Published: 04/14/18