The Obama administration is staying mum about the next step for its controversial healthcare co-op program, which has seen a half-dozen of the startup insurers fail in the last two weeks.
In her first remarks since the string of co-op collapses this month, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell did not offer details about her involvement with the mostly state-run programs.
“Right now, that is what we are doing, is exploring our options,” she said when pressed by several reporters about the federal government's options. “We are continuing to examine what, if any, options we have.”
But she also did not voice concerns about the program's fate, even amid a growing chorus of Republican criticism.
Two GOP-led committees, the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means, have scheduled hearings on the co-op programs next week.
Nearly half of the 23 health insurance start-ups, which received funding under ObamaCare, have shuttered. About half of those were announced this month, just ahead of the open enrollment season that begins Nov. 1.
The enrollment in the co-ops had been low nationwide, but the closures will still affect several hundred thousand people. Burwell said each person will receive information from their insurer and from the government about how to remain enrolled.
She offered no details about how HHS would work with the remaining 12 co-ops but stressed that the program was intended to bolster competition across the marketplace, which she said made it crucial that customers check out all their options each signup period.
“Shopping is important, and we've said that all along, and that's part of what the marketplace is all about. It’s about providing transparency and choice in a way that most people have never known or seen before,” she said. “We want to make sure we continue [that].”