BEND, Ore. (AP) — Rising fees have Oregon health officials mulling whether to relaunch the state’s own health care insurance exchange even after its previous health coverage website failed.
Oregon has a state-based marketplace but currently uses the HealthCare.gov software platform on its site. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, allowed states to use the software for free in the first two open enrollment sessions but started charging a fee of 1.5 percent of premiums for the 2017 open enrollment period. CMS then raised the fees to 2 percent for 2018 and will charge states 3 percent for 2019, The Bend Bulletin reported .
“The question is whether there is some alternative that would actually be cheaper, or at least competitive in price, that might also give Oregon flexibility,” Jesse O’Brien said, policy director for the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group and a member of the exchange’s Marketplace Advisory Committee.
“Having no control over the system, it’s already clear over the past few years that it’s not the optimal situation.”
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Oregon exchange officials said health plans paid an estimated $16 million in fees for the 2018 open enrollment period, and expect to pay somewhere between $25 million and $30 million for 2019.
CMS officials did not respond to a request from The Bulletin for an explanation of the price hikes.
State officials are wondering if Oregon is getting its money’s worth in using the federal exchange, or whether acquiring its own technology might be cheaper.
Oregon exchange officials also have been frustrated by the lack of control the state faces when using the federal platform. Oregon and the four other states that use the federal technology to power their exchanges have started negotiating as a group with CMS, pushing for more flexibility and for more access to data on enrollees.
States relying completely on the federal exchange are charged 3.5 percent, just a half percentage point more than states like Nevada and Oregon that do much of the work of operating an exchange, but rely on the federal software.
Nevada decided this year to explore other sources of software and to move to a state-based exchange. Nevada now is seeking to buy exchange software from another state or its vendor, in time for the 2020 open enrollment period.
If Nevada is successful in relaunching its fully state-based exchange, other states, including Oregon, could soon follow.
Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com