Yesterday the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed new rules to guide states in structuring their Exchanges. The Exchanges were authorized under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA). Once all of the Exchanges are fully operational in 2014, individuals will find it easier to compare plans, find out which programs they may be eligible for, and ultimately enroll in the plan that best meets their needs. HHS explains that the purpose of the rules are to set minimum standards for Exchanges and give states the flexibility they need to design Exchanges that best fit their unique insurance markets. To date, 49 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories accepted grants to help plan and operate Exchanges. While some states are further along in the implementation process, others will continue to implement exchanges on different schedules through 2014.
Although the proposed rules were not very detailed, they grant states the flexibility that many of them seek in running their state health programs. Of the two rules proposed yesterday, perhaps of most importance to those newly eligible under the ACA is the rule to ensure premium stability for plans and enrollees in the Exchange. This will be particularly valuable for individuals and families seeking coverage for the first time.
HHS is accepting public comment on the proposed rules over the next 75 days to learn from states, consumers, and other stakeholders how the rules can be improved. HHS will modify these proposals based on feedback from the American people. For more information on Exchanges, including fact sheets, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/exchanges.