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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions are used to provide additional information and/or statutory guidance not found in State Medicaid Director Letters, State Health Official Letters, or CMCS Informational Bulletins. The different sets of FAQs as originally released can be accessed below.

FAQ Library

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How will HHS help Exchanges with the eligibility process for exemptions from the shared responsibility payment for individuals?

Section 1311(d)(4)(H) of the Affordable Care Act specifies that the Exchange will issue certificates of exemption from the shared responsibility payment described in section 5000A of the Internal Revenue Code, which otherwise applies to individuals who do not maintain minimum essential coverage. In the "State Exchange Implementation Questions and Answers" released on November 29, 2011, we indicated that a State-Based Exchange could either conduct this assessment itself or use a federally-managed service for exemptions from the shared responsibility payment. We included this option in the Exchange Blueprint. State-Based Exchanges can also choose to conduct this function independently

With this service, the Exchange will accept an application for an exemption, and then transfer the information contained on the application to HHS through a secure, electronic transaction. HHS will conduct relevant verifications and return an eligibility determination to the Exchange, which will then notify the individual who submitted the application. The Exchange and HHS will share responsibility for customer service. To the extent that an individual's situation changes during the year, he or she would be required to submit an update to the Exchange, which will then transfer it to HHS to process. This configuration limits the level of effort required on the part of the Exchange, while ensuring that the Exchange complies with the statutory direction to issue certificates of exemption.

HHS will provide additional information regarding exemptions shortly, including technical specifications for the application and for the application transfer service.

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FAQ ID:94541

How will HHS work with state policymakers to make sure that the Federally-Facilitated Exchange accounts for the needs of a particular state? How will the Federally-Facilitated Exchange for each state ensure that it accurately incorporates state-specific laws and procedures into its business processes?

To the greatest extent possible, HHS intends to work with states to preserve the traditional responsibilities of state insurance departments when establishing a Federally-Facilitated Exchange for a particular state. Additionally, HHS will seek to harmonize Exchange policy with existing state programs and laws wherever possible.

For example, qualified health plans that will be offered in a Federally-Facilitated Exchange must be offered by issuers that meet state licensure and solvency requirements and are in good standing in the state (section 1301(a)(1)(C) of the Affordable Care Act; 45 C.F.R. section 156.200(b)(4)). In addition, qualified health plans will be subject to requirements that apply to all individual and small group market products such as the proposed market rules. Accordingly, states continue to maintain an important responsibility with respect to qualified health plans licensed and offered in their states, regardless of whether the Exchange is Federally-Facilitated or State-Based.

HHS is currently working to determine the extent to which activities conducted by state insurance departments such as the review of rates and policy forms could be recognized as part of the certification of qualified health plans by a Federally-Facilitated Exchange. For example, most states currently have an effective rate review program in place and HHS will rely on such processes in connection with qualified health plan certification decisions and oversight by a Federally-Facilitated Exchange. HHS will work with regulators in each state with a Federally-Facilitated Exchange to identity these efficiencies.

HHS is working with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to enable states to use the System for Electronic Rate and Form Filing as part of the qualified health plan submission and certification process in a State Partnership Exchange. This will help ensure that state and federal regulators are using the same data for their reviews and simplify issuer compliance responsibilities.

HHS also will collect state-specific Medicaid and CHIP policy data so that the Federally-Facilitated Exchange is able to evaluate Medicaid and CHIP eligibility.

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FAQ ID:94426

How will the Federally-Facilitated Exchange be funded?

To fund the operation of the Federally-Facilitated Exchange, we proposed for comment in the draft Payment Notice that participating issuers pay a monthly user fee to support the operation of the Federally-Facilitated Exchange. For the 2014 benefit year, we proposed a monthly user fee rate that is aligned with rates charged by State-Based Exchanges. While we proposed that this rate be 3.5 percent of premium, it may be adjusted in the final Payment Notice to take into account State-Based Exchange rates. Exchange user fees will support activities such as the consumer outreach, information and assistance activities that health plans currently pay themselves. This policy does not affect the ability of a state to use grants described in section 1311 of the Affordable Care Act to develop functions that a state elects to operate under a State Partnership Exchange and to support state activities to build interfaces with a Federally-Facilitated Exchange.

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FAQ ID:94446

How will the Federally-Facilitated Exchange display qualified health plan options to consumers? Will consumers see all of their options or just those that are "best" for them? Will the Federally-Facilitated Exchange allow individuals who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP to purchase qualified health plans instead?

Consumers will see all qualified health plans, including stand-alone dental plans, certified to be offered through the Federally-Facilitated Exchange, offered in their service area. HHS is developing ways for consumers to sort qualified health plan options based on their preferences.

Qualified individuals who are Medicaid or CHIP eligible are allowed to purchase qualified health plans instead of receiving coverage through the Medicaid or CHIP programs. However, they are not eligible to receive advance payments of premium tax credits or cost-sharing reductions to help with the cost of purchasing qualified health plans through an Exchange.

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FAQ ID:94546

If a state accepts the Medicaid expansion, can a state later drop out of the expansion program?

Yes. A state may choose whether and when to expand, and, if a state covers the expansion group, it may decide later to drop the coverage.

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FAQ ID:94556

If a state chooses to provide some services to a Federally-Facilitated Exchange, will the state be reimbursed for its costs?

Yes in certain circumstances. HHS expects that states supporting the development of a Federally-Facilitated Exchange may choose to seek section 1311(a) Exchange Establishment cooperative agreement funding for activities including, but not limited to:

  • Developing data system interfaces with the Federally-Facilitated Exchange;
  • Coordinating the transfer of plan information (e.g., licensure and solvency) from the state insurance department to the Federally-Facilitated Exchange; and
  • Other activities necessary to support (and related to the establishment of) the effective operations of a Federally-Facilitated Exchange.

After section 1311(a) funds are no longer available, HHS anticipates continued funding, under a different funding vehicle, for state activities performed on behalf of the Federally-Facilitated Exchange. To the extent permissible under applicable law, HHS intends to make tools and other resources used by the Federally-Facilitated Exchange available to state partners in State Partnership Exchanges, as well as to State-Based Exchanges.

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FAQ ID:94451

Is there a deadline for letting the federal government know if a state will be proceeding with the Medicaid expansion? How does that relate to the Exchange declaration deadline? Is HHS intending to provide guidance to states as to the process by which state plan amendments are used to adopt Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act?

No, there is no deadline by which a state must let the federal government know its intention regarding the Medicaid expansion. Nor is there any particular reason for a state to link its decision on the Exchange with its decision on the Medicaid expansion. States have a number of decision points in designing their Medicaid programs within the broad federal framework set forth in the federal statute and regulations, and the decision regarding the coverage expansion for low-income adults is one of those decisions.

As with all changes to the Medicaid state plan, a state would indicate its intention to adopt the new coverage group by submitting a Medicaid state plan amendment. If a state later chooses to discontinue coverage for the adult group, it would submit another state plan amendment to CMS. The state plan amendment process is itself undergoing modernization. As part of an overall effort to streamline business processes between CMS and states, in early 2013 CMS will begin implementing an online state plan amendment system to assist states in filing state plan amendments. We will be discussing the submission process for Affordable Care Act-related state plan amendments on our monthly State Operations and Technical Assistance calls with states and will be available to answer questions through that process.

While states have flexibility to start or stop the expansion, the applicable federal match rates for medical assistance provided to "newly eligible individuals" are tied by law to specific calendar years outlined in the statute: states will receive 100 percent support for the newly eligible adults in 2014, 2015, and 2016; 95 percent in 2017, 94 percent in 2018, 93 percent in 2019; and 90 percent by 2020, remaining at that level thereafter.

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FAQ ID:94551

The Disproportionate Share Hospital allotments will be reduced starting in 2014 using a methodology based on the reduction in the number of uninsured. One, when will HHS issue the regulations and methodology for this reduction? Two, for a state that does not see a decrease in its uninsured population, will the remaining states absorb the full reduction? Is HHS planning any modification to the manner in which it will reduce DSH allotments as it relates to states that do not expand?

The law directs HHS to develop a methodology to reduce Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding over time in a way that is linked to reductions in the number of uninsured or how states target their funds. We have heard from states and health care providers about their concerns related to this change and are exploring all options. The Department will propose this methodology for public comment early next year.

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FAQ ID:94626

The Office of Personnel Management is required to certify Multi-State Plans that must be included in every Exchange. How will you ensure that Multi-State Plans compete on a level playing field and are compliant with state laws?

The U.S. Office of Personal Management released a proposed rule implementing the Multi-State Plan Program on November 30, 2012. To ensure that the Multi-State Plans are competing on a level playing field with other plans in the marketplace, the proposed regulation largely defers to state insurance law and the standards promulgated by HHS and states related to qualified health plans. Under the proposal, Multi-State Plans will be evaluated based largely on the same criteria as other qualified health plans operating in Exchanges. The few areas in which the Office of Personal Management proposes different regulatory standards from those applicable to qualified health plans are areas where the Office of Personal Management has extensive experience through its administration of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. However, in order to ensure that these few differences will not create any unfair advantages, the Office of Personal Management seeks comment from states and other stakeholders on these proposals. The regulation appeared in the Federal Register on December 5, 2012, and the comment period runs through January 4, 2013.

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FAQ ID:94481

What does HHS expect that states in a State Partnership Exchange must do to fulfill their obligations regarding in-person consumer assistance? How will the state-specific in-person consumer assistance programs be integrated with the Navigator program?

In-person assistance programs are an additional mechanism through which Exchanges may meet the consumer assistance responsibilities of the Exchange under 45 C.F.R. section 155.205(d) and (e). As described in the Federally-facilitated Exchange Guidance, states operating under a State Partnership Exchange will build and operate an in-person assistance program, for which grant funding is available under section 1311 of the Affordable Care Act, distinct from the Navigator program for that Exchange. State-Based Exchanges may do so as well. The purpose of providing multiple tools for in-person assistance is to ensure that all consumers can receive help when accessing health insurance coverage through an Exchange.

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FAQ ID:94521

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