CMS seeks firm to promote insurance exchanges

WASHINGTON: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is preparing to step in for states that are too far behind to establish the healthcare exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

WASHINGTON: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is preparing to step in for states that are too far behind to establish the healthcare exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

The exchanges are marketplaces where consumers buy insurance and insurers sell plans. The Affordable Care Act mandates that states create exchanges by January 1, 2013, so individuals and small employers can purchase coverage from them by the start of the following year.  

If states do not meet that deadline, the federal government will both run and promote the exchanges, according to an RFP from CMS, which is a division of the Health and Human Services Department. Government-run marketplaces will be called “federally facilitated exchanges (FFE),” according to the RFP.

“It is uncertain in how many states CMS may be responsible for outreach and education as part of the FFE, thus all outreach and education planning and implementation strategies must be planned and scalable to implement across a few states to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories,” the RFP says.

Conservative states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas lagged behind others in creating exchanges in the hope that the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act would have made them a moot point. Other states, like California and Washington, are far enough ahead that they have hired PR firms to promote their exchanges.

In the same RFP, CMS is also seeking support for promoting the expansion of the Medicaid program mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

The winning firm will be required to build on the initial strategic outreach plans for health insurance and the Medicaid expansion developed by CMS. It will also build on exchange outreach and education efforts for consumers, Medicare eligibles, and small businesses.

The agency will also be tasked with earned media and event support for the period before open enrollment, planned for October 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014.

The deadline to reply to the RFP is July 20. The RFP did not include a budget, and a contracting officer declined to release one.

For its fiscal year 2013 budget, CMS is requesting an additional $1 billion in discretionary funding “to continue implementing the Affordable Care Act, including exchanges, and to help keep up with the growth in the Medicare population,” according to the agency's budget proposal.

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