Health care reform depends on state CIOs, association says

State CIOs likely will play key roles in carrying out national health care reforms, specifically by setting up online state health benefits exchanges that may take various forms, according to a report from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO).

However, continuing political contentiousness over the health care law's provisions has slowed implementation, according to the report, released on June 2. To date, only six states have enacted the health insurance exchanges the law calls for. Forty-one state legislatures have filed measures that oppose at least some part of the health care law.

The goal of the online exchanges is to increase state insurance coverage by simplifying the enrollment process through a user-friendly Web portal. The exchanges are also expected to increase competition among providers, leading to lower costs for members.

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The 2010 law already has provided $2.8 billion in funding to states to build benefit exchanges, expand Medicaid eligibility and engage in prevention efforts, and billions more dollars will be funneled to the states in the next several years.

To implement the benefits exchanges, the association recommends that state CIOs simplify enrollment and eligibility systems and deploy interoperable IT systems. In some cases, this may mean replacing and making interoperable the legacy systems operated by counties.

“The [law] is going to require states to rethink the way they have designed eligibility systems in the past,” NASCIO said. “The new portals must assure that they are able to serve as a seamless one-stop shop for individuals and families who may encounter fluctuating incomes from year-to-year, move to a new geographical location or may have a disability that qualifies them for enrollment.”

States also will have to take the following actions to comply with the law, the report said:

  • Operating a toll-free hotline.
  • Have the ability to provide transparency of price and quality rating to plans.
  • Present plan benefit options in a standardized format.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Thu, Jun 9, 2011 Jeremy Engdahl-Johnson New York, NY

Health exchanges have implications for benefits, especially cost and utilization

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