HHS wants automatic re-enrollment of exchange customers


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new rule to automatically renew customers' current marketplace plans unless people opt out of them, the agency announced yesterday.

The rule would take effect in 2015. It would align federal exchange operations with the widely used market practice of automatically re-enrolling customers in existing plans every year with updated premiums and benefits, the HHS noted.

The agency said it intends to improve the customer experience with its new rule. Proposed changes followed a number of "listening sessions" HHS held with consumers, providers, employers, insurers and state representatives to enhance performance of the federal exchanges.

"As we plan for open enrollment in year two and continue to build a sustainable long-term system, we are committed to simplifying the experience for consumers by allowing auto enrollment," said HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in the announcement. "We are working to streamline the process for consumers wishing to remain in their current plan."

But people can still make changes, HHS emphasized. They can revisit the system to shop, switch plans, report life changes or adjust their annual income to get the best deals on health insurance, according to the announcement.

Marketplace notices will advise customers on how to update their information. If new information shows enrollees aren't eligible for another tax credit, then they'll be re-enrolled in their current plans without it, the announcement stated. And insurers will give customers premium information near the start of open enrollment, as that's when consumers can make changes if they wish.

State-funded marketplaces may follow the federal government's lead, or they can propose alternatives to streamline enrollment based on the needs of their residents, HHS noted.

The proposed rule is slated for publication in the Federal Register on July 1. Public comments on the proposed changes are due no later than 30 days after the publication date.

For more:
- read the HHS announcement and proposed rule (.pdf)

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