Federal Insurance Exchanges Face Medicaid Applications Glitch

With less than one week before the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges are scheduled to open for enrollment, CMS has acknowledged that the federally run marketplaces will not be able to electronically transfer Medicaid applications to states when U.S. residents begin signing up for health coverage on Oct. 1, the Wall Street Journal reports (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 9/24).

Background on Exchanges' Technical Glitches

Last week, several insurance executives and sources familiar with the exchanges said the Obama administration is "scrambling" to quickly address a series of "pricing quirks" in the software that will be used for the roughly three dozen federal health insurance exchanges under the ACA.

Specifically, the unidentified executives and sources said the exchanges' calculator application -- which is still in the testing phase -- cannot reliably determine the costs that consumers would have to pay for coverage. They also noted that the testing of the software -- which was scheduled to begin months ago -- only just began this week (iHealthBeat, 9/20).

Medicaid Application Glitch

Although many uninsured residents will be eligible for federal subsidies to help offset the cost of private coverage through the online marketplaces, some might discover that they actually are eligible for Medicaid and could opt to sign up for coverage through the program.

A CMS spokesperson said the Medicaid applications will not be electronically relayed to the state-managed programs until Nov. 1 but noted that individuals could sign up directly through the states' offices, according to the Journal.

Meanwhile, state officials -- who are aware of the problem -- have said that barring any additional delays, the technical glitch hindering prospective Medicaid applicants should not affect people's coverage beginning on Jan. 1 (Wall Street Journal, 9/24).

CMS Official Says Administration Is Ready for Glitches

In related news, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner during a speech at a health insurers' conference on Tuesday said her agency is ready to handle any glitches that might arise during next week's open enrollment launch for the exchanges, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

Tavenner said that it will take time before the system runs smoothly, adding that "everyone is going to be learning this as we go forward." She also urged critics to focus on "the things we need to resolve ... the mitigation strategies" and the steps that CMS is taking to "correct and identify" problems (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/24).

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