The Obama administration on Friday said it is on track to set up federal health insurance exchanges by 2014 in U.S. states that fail to establish their own regulated insurance markets under the U.S. healthcare reform law.
The Health and Human Services Department is also preparing to issue new guidance for states before the end of the summer on how federally facilitated exchanges are expected to operate, a senior official said.
“We realize that not all states will be ready to establish these exchanges by 2014, so we are on track to set up the federally facilitated exchange in those states. It is on track to go live,” said Mike Hash, the senior official overseeing the administration’s health exchange effort at HHS.
His remarks come at a time of mounting tension between the administration and some states over the exchanges and other provisions of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms.
The reform law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act calls on states to create regulated exchanges where an estimated 16 million uninsured Americans are expected to qualify for private health coverage at rates subsidized according to income via federal tax credits.
Tax credits would be available for a family of four earning up to $88,000 a year.
The Affordable Care Act survived a major legal test a month ago when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional but allowed states to opt out of an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor.
But the reform provision on exchanges has since become an election year flashpoint for several Republican governors who reject the plan, along with the Medicaid expansion, as too costly and bureaucratic.
Officials in still more states are waiting to see who wins the November election before taking action.
Republicans, led by their party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, are vowing to repeal “Obamacare” if they win big in November’s general election.
State resistance to the exchanges, spearheaded by the governors of Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, has been largely overshadowed up to now by the concurrent fight over Medicaid, which would extend coverage to an estimated 11 million people who are now uninsured.