Fed Rolls Out Affordable Health Insurance Exchanges

Monday’s Post 11/14/11 – The US Treasury with the Department of Heath and Human Service (HHS) has allocated more funds, for building out an affordable Insurance Exchanges.  Governors in most states received the first batch of $50 Million grants last year to commence plans on the Health Insurance Exchanges. This time round, thirteen States received $185 Million Dollars accompanied by a Letter from the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, promised that more funds are set for release to the rest of the States in the coming months. The State Health Insurance Exchange Programs are part of the reforms envisioned in the Affordable Care Act of 2010 or what is known as ObamaCare. It seeks to offer working class citizens with diverse Healthcare Insurance options, similar to what members of Congress receive. The Act also provides for people and small business owners to shop for low-cost medical insurance cover, according to their personal needs and resources. The Rules and Policies entrenched in the Act will enable workers to receive tax breaks and reduced costs of medical insurance. The goals of the plans are quite lofty. Since the announcement of ObamaCare health insurance prices have exploded costing both businesses and families as much as 50% more than they were paying just two years ago. I hope these new exchanges make the difference.

Most States have already laid the groundwork for building of Insurance Exchanges. In the letter that accompanied the funds, Kathleen Sebelius proposed three rules; that will make the Insurance Exchange process as straightforward as possible for workers. According to her, the Exchanges will offer reprieve to the millions who cannot afford Medical Insurance, due to one reason or the other.

She spells out in the letter about the commitment of HHS to partner with all States towards efficient use and management of the funds. She also requests Governors to comment and contribute on better ways through which they can improve the partnership. Each State can build an Exchange system that works efficiently for its residents accordingly. Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner who accompanied Kathleen, added that the Insurance Exchange Program brought America closer to achievement of one of the targets envisioned in the Universal Healthcare Program.

 The rules proposed by Government propose the following plans though the exchange program:

  1. Provide direct access to superlative Healthcare plans, and coverage for workers and small business owners. Premium Tax breaks and sharing of expenses will ensure access to affordable options for any worker.
  2. Introduction of the Health Insurance Premium Tax Credit to reduce the spiraling costs of medical insurance among middle and low income employees.
  3. Reduce bureaucracy and streamline operations by linking Medicaid with the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 

None of these proposals is cast in stone. Hence, the Administration will be out to solicit comments, reactions and opinions from all stakeholders in the coming months. There will be public forums in Atlanta, GA;  Chicago, IL;  Sacramento, CA; Denver, CO;  Portland, OR and New York, NY to hammer out the Exchange agenda. HHS will modify the rules and programs according to feedback obtained from the public.


Michael E. Dortch
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