Is U.S. Health-Care Reform on Track for 2014?

Health policy experts weigh in on the fate of the Affordable Care Act

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Recently, though, Congress' Government Accountability Office reported that health officials are running behind schedule on many aspects of health exchange formation, including testing data systems that will be used to determine eligibility for coverage.

On Friday, the Obama administration published regulations scaling back the requirement that state health insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, verify consumers' income and health insurance status to obtain coverage under the law. Instead, the exchanges will rely more heavily on self-reported information until 2015, according to the Washington Post.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Todd Park, chief technology officer with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the state health insurance exchanges are "on track" and will be up and running on Oct. 1 for open enrollment.

Self-reporting will streamline the enrollment process, said Dan Schuyler, director of exchange technology at the Salt Lake City-based consulting firm Leavitt Partners. But, he added, "it also opens the door to deliberate fraud, abuse and unintentional eligibility errors."

Is Obamacare in trouble? Depends on whom you ask

Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act assert that the Obama administration is playing politics by delaying provisions of the law, particularly the employer mandate, until after 2014 mid-term Congressional elections, The Hill reported.

By 2023, the law will reduce the number of people without health insurance by 25 million, still leaving 31 million uninsured, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wants the CBO to reevaluate the estimate of the law's impact in light of the recent delays, according to The Hill.

Alden Bianchi, group leader of the law firm Mintz Levin's employee benefits practice in Boston, doesn't believe recent changes suggest the federal law's implementation is in trouble, as Republican opponents assert.

"The exchanges won't be perfect on Day One. The underlying electronic infrastructure that communicates among HHS (Health and Human Services) and the various state exchanges won't be up and running. But will people be able to get access to health care? Yeah, and that's really what exchanges are for," said Bianchi, who represented former Gov. Mitt Romney's administration for Massachusetts' 2006 health reform legislation.

David Smith, Leavitt Partners' director of payer services, downplayed the possibility that the White House would put the brakes on the state insurance exchanges or the individual mandate.

"Politically, the administration can't afford a delay of the more critical pieces of the law and will move mountains to implement them on time while managing expectations," he said.

More information

To learn more about the Affordable Care Act visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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