On Tuesday, HHS will launch a series of regional meetings to encourage reluctant states to move forward with health insurance exchanges, amid concerns that many states will not be ready to establish their own, Reuters reports.
Throughout August, HHS will meet with state officials and others, beginning in Washington, D.C., and continuing in Atlanta, Chicago and Denver, to discuss the exchanges and other parts of the federal health reform law.
Experts say time is running out for states to begin setting up the online marketplaces. So far, 15 states have passed legislation or issued executive orders to create exchanges and seven states have decided to allow the federal government to establish and run their exchanges, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Meanwhile, many of the remaining 28 states are waiting until after the November election to make a decision, according to Reuters.
With few states taking steps to prepare for the exchanges, some analysts are questioning whether the administration will be able to handle the technical and political logistics necessary to create federal exchanges in so many states. Under the law, states will have to decide later this year whether or not they will create their own exchanges. The exchanges must be ready to open enrollment by October 2013, and they must be in full operational beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
Experts say the federal government should not have trouble implementing the information technology infrastructure for the exchanges. However, the success of the federal exchanges will rely on the amount of cooperation the administration receives from states in selecting insurers and health plans, determining eligibility and providing customer service and support, according to Reuters.
Joel Ario, former director of the CMS Office of Health Insurance Exchanges, said it would be "a very tall order" if the administration had to rely on that sort of cooperation in 40 to 45 states.
In an effort to reduce the number of federal exchanges, the Obama administration has been flexible with states, allowing them to set their own benchmarks for essential health benefits and offering states the option of partnering with the federal government to share operations, Ario said (Morgan, Reuters, 8/13).