Republican lawmakers asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office this week to investigate the CMS' management of state-based exchanges and whether the agency is providing adequate assistance to states shifting to the federally run HealthCare.gov.
“Rollout and operation of the marketplaces has been problematic for many … states, as websites froze or crashed, and other technical problems hindered or prevented consumers' ability to enroll in healthcare coverage,” the Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote in their request to GAO.
The Jan. 13 letter (PDF), signed by Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), followed in the wake of Kentucky's newly elected governor, Matt Bevin, a Republican, shuttering KYNECT, the state's marketplace. Bevin campaigned on closing the state's exchange once he took office.
The letter noted Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon have also abandoned their exchanges and turned over the Affordable Care Act enrollment process to HealthCare.gov.
Federal grants for states to plan and launch exchanges totaled $5.5 billion by the end of 2014, with 83% of those funds going to states that eventually launched state-based exchanges, according to the lawmakers.
The committee wants GAO to investigate how the CMS helps states transition to the federal marketplace. In addition, it wants GAO to investigate what the CMS is doing to ensure the success of the state-based insurance exchanges now that federal funding for the marketplaces has dried up.
The investigation's findings could be significant since it could reveal for the first time what it costs for a state to transition to the federal platform and whether the agency has a consistent process to help, said Sabrina Corlette, project director of Georgetown University's Center for Health Insurance Reforms. “These questions are the right ones to be asking,” she said.
Thomas Miller, a healthcare policy expert at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, also supported the inquiry, noting that it appears CMS hasn't been focusing a lot on the state exchanges. “CMS is just happy states have something operating and has been paying more attention to the federal exchange,” he said.
A CMS representative didn't immediately return a request for comment.