The Unicorn Exists … and It’s in Maryland
By Steve Davis - June 14, 2013
Steve

On June 13, I moderated a panel discussion on health insurance exchanges at the Gorman Health Group’s annual forum outside of Washington, D.C. During that session, Rebecca Pearce, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, confirmed the existence of the Federal Data Services Hub — something that many in the industry consider as mythical as unicorns and leprechauns.

On May 30, Maryland’s exchange became the nation’s first state-based exchange to submit information to — and receive information back from — the data hub. The Final Detailed Design Review (FDDR) is a live real-time data verification demo that all state exchanges are required to complete. The data hub is expected to link state insurance exchanges to a handful of federal agencies (e.g., HHS, IRS, Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Service, Social Security) to verify applicant information, such as citizenship and household income. HHS has been mum when it comes to the development or testing of the data hub. Some industry observers I’ve interviewed are betting that the data hub will be delayed.

“We are the only state to have actually connected to the Federal Data Services Hub live,” during the FDDR demo, Pearce told attendees. The demo included verification of Social Security numbers, citizenship and eligibility for advance premium tax credits. She said that her office has weekly meetings with CMS’s Center for Consumer Information and Insurance, and that she or her staff is in daily contact with CCIIO.

But successful testing is one thing. Linda Tiano, an attorney at the law firm Epstein Becker and Green, said she worried about scalability. “Once it’s up and running, you’ve got 50 states trying to send and receive data on a daily basis,” she said. Do you think the Federal Data Services Hub will be up and running on time?

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