| WASHINGTON, June 19
WASHINGTON, June 19 New health insurance
exchanges being set up by the federal government in more than 30
states under President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare overhaul
could miss an Oct. 1 deadline for open enrollment, a government
report said on Wednesday.
The launch of the exchanges, which are expected to provide
health coverage for 7 million people in 2014 and 22 million by
2016 as well as to some small businesses, could determine
whether Obama's signature domestic policy achievement succeeds.
The report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability
Office (GAO) said key parts of the framework of the exchanges,
including those that addressed consumers' eligibility for
federal subsidies, management and monitoring of insurance plans
and consumer assistance, had not been completed.
The report found that states had not completed many of the
tasks assigned for implementation, while U.S. officials have
conducted only initial testing of the computerized system that
will link the exchanges, states and the federal government.
But much progress had been made in completing major tasks
necessary for implementation, including establishment of the
regulatory framework, according to the report.
It added that the Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) is also planning contingencies to deal with problems and
found that interim deadlines that have been missed up to this
point may not affect implementation.
"Additional missed deadlines closer to the start of
enrollment could (affect implementation)," the report concluded.
"Whether these efforts will assure the timely and smooth
implementation of the exchanges by October 2013 cannot yet be
Federal officials, led by U.S. Health and Human Services
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, have vowed repeatedly that the
federal exchanges set up under the healthcare law, also known as
"Obamacare," will be ready on time in states that have chosen
not to implement their own marketplaces, often because of
political opposition from Republican governors and legislators.
"We are working every day to establish individual and small
business marketplaces, where many Americans will have access to
quality, affordable coverage for the first time. We have already
met key milestones and are on track to open the marketplace on
time," HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said on Wednesday.