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Healthcare.gov CEO talks challenges to running insurance exchanges

Kevin Counihan says building exchanges takes time, risks offering too many choices

Healthcare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan has some words of caution for state governments that may be tempted to build their own insurance exchanges.

During the National Health Insurance Exchange Summit in the District of Columbia, Counihan discussed the difficulty in establishing the exchanges itself and in confusing consumers with too many choices.  

Setting up a state-run health insurance marketplace is no easy feat. In fact, it's a "very, very complex activity," Counihan mentioned during a panel, according to the Hill.

Should the Supreme Court's pending decision in King v. Burwell strike down federal subsidies in the 37 states that did not set up their own exchanges, these states could be forced into establishing their own marketplaces. The chances of this happening are even greater if Republicans in Congress and President Obama can't agree on a legislative fix to prevent millions of Americans from losing subsidized coverage, noted The Hill.

While Counihan did not directly mention King v. Burwell, he did note that setting up an exchange takes a few months. With a Court decision due in June, the states than did not set up their own exchanges are unlikely to have one in place when open enrollment begins in November, he said.

Counihan later shifted his focus during the conference to the number of health plan choices offered on Healthcare.gov. 

He pointed out the average consumer has 40 plan choices, with up to 130 choices present in one community, reported Employee Benefit Adviser. While he agreed choice is important, Counihan suggested consumers prefer fewer options.

At the same time, Counihan added, the Department of Health and Human Services believes choice is imperative for consumers purchasing plans. He mentioned New York's exchange as a good example of how insurance exchanges can use decision support tools to help customers pick health plans.

"That is a clear goal for us," Counihan said.

For more:
- here's the Hill article
- check out the EBA piece

Related Articles:
Can state-run exchanges work without the ACA?
State exchanges still plagued by financial challenges
With looming financial problems, state-run exchanges get creative
King v. Burwell Supreme Court case: What you need to know [Special Report]
Report: Marketplaces can do more to improve transparency
Public, private exchanges use decision support tools to help customers pick plans