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Waiting continues as feds push back insurance exchange deadline

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While it's not causing the same type of uncertainty as talks of sequestration or the presidential election, the move by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to push back the deadline on health insurance exchanges is another road bump for hospitals looking for a specific path to health care reform.

Neil Eicher, director of government relations and policy for the New Jersey Hospital Association, said that the changing deadlines for states to give specific details on implementing their own insurance exchange, rather than leaving it up to the federal government, is making it difficult for hospitals to plan.

The announcement of the new deadline for submitting a detailed exchange plan, or blue print, moved from Nov. 16 to Dec. 14, came late Friday afternoon, though Eicher said rumors of a delay had been swirling for several days after the election.

New Jersey is one of several states that have not made a final decision on the form of its insurance exchange, as Gov. Chris Christie said he would wait for election results to decide on the Legislature's bill establishing a state-run exchange.

"Time is running out for (insurers) to be able to sell their plans on the exchange beginning in October next year. We need something established soon," Eicher said. But Eicher said that if the extra time "gives the administration the extra days to get it correct, and make sure they're comfortable with it, that's fine, so long as it's put into motion and everything gets up and running quickly."

DHSS has maintained that the Jan. 1 deadline for certifying state exchanges, as well as the Jan. 1, 2014, deadline for the exchanges to begin operating, will not be moved. Eicher also pointed out that states looking for additional federal funding for establishing an exchange must apply before Thursday, and it "makes sense to jump on that."

Eicher said the NJHA was prepared to move forward with helping the state implement an exchange by the end of this week, and that they are "anxious to see the next move."

Correction appended: An earlier version of the story was unclear about what was required for the Nov. 16 and Dec. 14 deadlines. The story has been corrected.

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