Inside Scoop on Obamacare Exchanges

By Twila Brase, R.N., PHN President and Co-founder of CCHF Health Freedom eNews

Healthcare law could raise premiums 30% for some CaliforniansWill Obamacare Exchanges be ready?

We hope not. The headline from an Exchange industry news article says, “Will HHS Stall Start of Federal Exchanges?

Observers Say ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ ‘Wait Till Oct. 1”.

There are 33 states that have refused to build (fund) a “state exchange,” forcing the feds to build a “federal exchange” for them. That said, every state exchange is a federal exchange under federal control.

Thanks to the financial support of our donors, I was able to attend the First National Health Insurance Exchange Summit via special Internet access, which took place last week in Washington, D.C. The presenters were health plan executives, single-payer advocates, businessmen and women, government officials and policy wonks.

I’m going to give you the inside scoop from the conference (Vol. 1).

The speakers’ concerns show why CCHF is focused on the necessary work of “putting a stick in the spokes” of any and all Exchanges — especially in Minnesota. We’ve been watching these state government bureaucrats work harder than most other states to make a functioning Minnesota Exchange. They may intend to become a model for the rest of the nation — a model that could become a NATIONAL Exchange if and when other state exchanges fail.

So, let’s start with some amusing comments from the conference.

Several speakers clearly had difficulty transitioning to the government’s new lingo meant to mislead the public about the government exchanges. The speakers often said “exchange” instead of “marketplace.” Here are a few of their comments:

“When I say Exchanges, I mean Marketplaces.” — Penny Thompson, Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. (audience laughs)

“I have not even tried to make the switch to ‘marketplace.'” — Alan Weil, keynote speaker.

“For those of you who didn’t get the memo, it’s now called the Marketplace.” — Krista Dobrac, National Governors Association.

Now listen to their concerns about implementation.

The federal law requires Exchanges to be open for business on October 1, 2013. The operation of the Exchange is based on a functioning national IT superstructure that includes a “federal data services hub” (HUB), which connects to federal agencies and state agencies for the purpose of exchanging data and dollars nationwide. Eligibility for Exchange coverage and federal subsidies will be determined by a boatload of personal data. The feds say the HUB is almost done. Yet speakers have great concerns about Exchange readiness:

“States haven’t made a lot of progress yet in connecting to the data hub; systems don’t ‘talk’ to each other. Hope that systems will be in place perhaps by 2015.” — Susan Dentzer, RWJF

“Will they be ready? No one knows the answer to that. There’s a political and a technical consideration…If a state chooses not to cooperate, then it’s very difficult for the feds to put up a very successful, exchange in a state.” — Brett Graham, Leavitt Partners.

“It’s a three year implementation being done in 10 months. By its nature, it’s unrealistic.” — Keven Counihan, Access Health CT

“The truth is, it’s not going to be fully functioning on 10-1” — Christine Ferguson, RI (Exchange)

“And October 1 is very very soon.” — Cynthia Crose, Arkansas Insurance Dept.

“I don’t know what happens this fall if it’s not ready. — Sandy Praeger, NAIC

An illusion was also in play.

For example, Susan Dentzer, an executive from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) said that only 9% of the American population is expected to enroll in Exchange coverage. She called it a “small part of the landscape.” However, the length of the conference — two and one-half days starting at 7:00 a.m. each morning with as many as five or six concurrant sessions taking place — says otherwise.

To underscore CCHF’s concern, one government officials said the objective is “the same streamlined process for every American no matter their income.” Every American.

The Exchanges are the centerpiece of Obama’s reform law.

U.S. Senator Max Baucus said they are the “most important” part of the ACA. The administration wants — and needs — many workers and young healthy Americans to enroll in Exchange coverage or the cost of covering people with pre-existing conditions will make Exchanges unsustainable. The Exchange is a national wealth redistribution system, shifting the costs from the unhealthy to the healthy. Vermont and Washington, D.C. are already planning to force everyone within their borders to buy federal Exchange coverage.

Bureaucrats are worried about October 1 – and the political consequences of failure — but they have fought for national health care for years.

They will not stop unless they are stopped.

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