Archived Story

HHS seeks $600 million for health law enrollment efforts

Published 9:44am Wednesday, March 5, 2014

By Mary Agnes Carey

Kaiser Health News

Just in case Congress doesn’t pass President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget plan, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services say they have other options for finding the money they need to implement the health care law.

The law is expected to generate $1.2 billion in user fees—including those on health insurers who participate in its online marketplaces, or exchanges. The administration’s budget requests an additional $600 million to help run the federal marketplace, call centers and other outreach efforts, said Ellen Murray, assistant HHS secretary for financial resources.

If Congress doesn’t agree, she said, the secretary’s office has the authority to transfer funds from existing accounts, or to tap the agency’s non-recurring expense fund, which allows the agency to take money from expired accounts and use it for information technology and other capital investments.

“We would be looking at all those resources, as we are doing this year,” Murray said at a news briefing Tuesday about the budget. “But our expectation and hope is that Congress will provide the dollars we need.”

Funding for the federal exchange has been a trouble spot before. The health law provided funding for states to run their own exchanges, but because of strong Republican opposition to the law, more than half the states opted to let the federal government do that job instead. The law did not have adequate funding for such a large effort, and HHS officials have taken the money from other accounts.

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