Officials warn of Obamacare insurance exchange delays

By Patrick Temple-West and Kim Dixon  REUTERS

WASHINGTON | Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:31pm EDT

(Reuters) – Two U.S. government officials warned on Wednesday that the launch of new state healthcare exchanges could potentially be delayed, raising further doubts about the implementation of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

Alan Duncan, an auditor with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, an Internal Revenue Service agency that monitors performance, said testing the systems needed to implement the exchanges “will be difficult to complete” by the October 1 start date.

“The lack of adequate testing could result in significant delays and errors in accepting and processing … applications for health insurance coverage,” he told the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform committee.

At the same hearing, Government Accountability Office official John Dicken said the amount of work the federal government needs to do in each state has yet to be determined, raising the risk of missing deadlines. He added that the federal government and the states have already missed some deadlines.

The House on Wednesday approved a one year delay to the law.

However, Obama administration officials offered assurances that they were on track.

“We are on target to have our new systems ready for deployment when open enrollment in the marketplace begins on October 1,” Acting Internal Revenue Service chief Danny Werfel told the committee.

At a separate hearing, Mark Iwry, a health policy senior adviser at the Treasury Department, told lawmakers the administration’s healthcare work was on time.