Obama Administration Delays Exchange Notifications

Published March 7, 2013

The Obama administration has announced another delay in the implementation of the exchanges mandated under the president’s health care overhaul, indicating bureaucratic delays in a process which has only just begun.

Federal regulators have postponed indefinitely the mandate that employers notify employees in writing about the availability of health insurance exchanges. Previously they were to be required to do so by March 1, 2013.

According to a January 24 fact sheet issued jointly by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury, employers would have been required to inform their employees “of the existence of Exchanges including a description of the services provided by the Exchanges, and the manner in which the employee may contact Exchanges to request assistance.”

Summing up the reason for the delay, Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow in health policy studies Ed Haislmaier said simply, “They’re not ready.”

“Here’s the problem: they are not set up. There is no place to contact them,” Haislmaier said.

“You can’t comply with something that doesn’t exist.”

Implementation Behind Schedule

Devon Herrick, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, says this is another indication of the challenges emerging in implementing Obama’s law.

“Everything is behind schedule,” said Herrick. “It’s difficult to expect employers to inform their employees about coverage available in a state or federal exchange when the exchanges aren’t ready. Basically, employers would have to inform workers that they theoretically have access to public coverage if only there were a working exchange in existence.”

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, says the delays will only grow as rules from Washington are released.

“This is just one more delay in implementing this monstrously complex law,” Turner said. “The Obama administration has released more than 13,000 pages of rules so far, but businesses, health plans, and states say they still are in the dark regarding the details they need in order to comply.”

Turner says the delay in informing employees of the exchanges is one of many vague policy gaps in the law.

“Employers needed to know what to say, but it’s impossible for them to know that since the exchanges don’t exist yet, and health plans don’t have enough information to submit their plans for approval,” Turner said.

Missing Deadlines

According to Haislmaier, the missed deadlines may force the administration to delay exchange implementation well beyond the January 1 target launch date.

“The question is whether they’ll have a rudimentary facility up by October 1st that can do most of the things you want to do. Will it be up live and working the way the law envisions? There is approximately a 0 percent chance of that,” Haislmaier predicted. “The administration has missed deadline after deadline in trying to write the rules to reengineer one-sixth of the economy. The best thing that Congress could do for the health sector and the economy in the short term is to delay the start of the law.”