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Proposed HHS rule: New exchange sign-up period, auto-enrollment choices


In a proposed rule issued Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggested several changes to the health insurance exchanges, including changing the sign-up period and automatic enrollment.

If the rule becomes final, consumers would sign up for exchange plans between Oct. 1 and Dec. 15 each year starting in 2016. There's been a lot of concern over this year's enrollment period, which runs through the holiday season and is shorter than last year, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

HHS also proposed letting marketplaces move consumers who have already enrolled in an exchange plan into cheaper plans in 2016 if they don't sign up for new coverage on their own. The rule would let consumers choose either to remain in their current plan or be automatically enrolled in a similar, but less expensive, plan.

State-run exchanges would have first dibs on implementing this additional choice. Then, by 2017, all exchanges would offer the choice of enrollment.

"This alternative enrollment hierarchy could be triggered if the enrollee's current plan's premium increased from the prior year, or increased relative to the premium of other similar plans by more than a threshold amount," the rule said. 

However, HHS recognizes that consumers already enrolled in a plan may not return to the exchange, but may also be unhappy when they find themselves in new plans with different benefits and provider networks. A recent survey found that 51 percent of consumers who enrolled in exchange last year won't return to Healthcare.gov this year. That's why the agency specifically seeks comments on its automatic enrollment proposal. The comment period closes Dec. 26.

To learn more:
- here's the HHS proposed rule (.pdf)

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Automatic enrollment proves controversial
Prediction: Uncertainties, complications will plague upcoming ACA enrollment