Exchanges open doors for payment firms

(AP photo/Henrik Montgomery) (AP photo/Henrik Montgomery)

Firms that help carriers and other companies take payments online are hoping the start of the public health insurance exchanges will boost sales.

Daniel Bolger, a senior solutions consultant at ACI Worldwide Inc., a payment systems company that handles about $12 trillion in online payments throughout the world each day, talked about the market shift in a recent telephone interview.

Away from the exchanges, in the traditional insurance market, a significant number of carriers continue to lack online payment mechanisms, Bolger said.

"They're mostly regional players, but some are bigger than you'd expect," Bolger said.

ACI is working with either Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exchanges or the carriers selling coverage through the PPACA exchanges in about half of the states.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is connecting users of the federal HealthCare.gov system directly with the enrollment and payment systems on exchange plan issuers' own websites, Bolger said.

Some managers of state-based exchanges are processing payments themselves. Others are passing consumers on to the carriers' systems.

ACI is managing the payment systems for some state-based exchanges. In other states, ACI is handling payment systems for the exchange plan issuers.

Setting up the exchange program has been challenging, partly because government agencies are less familiar with the mechanics of designing, setting up and testing Web commerce sites than most well-established Web commerce companies, Bolger said.

But Bolger said he believes — from talking to colleagues in the field — that, for the most part, exchange and exchange-plan payment systems have been busy.

"It varies by region," Bolger said. "The volumes are there. The interest is real."

Despite news reports about consumers having trouble getting into exchange Web shopping systems, payment systems seem to be working well for consumers who have gotten to the payment stage, Bolger said.

Bolger said he would like to see the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services do a better job of providing exchange system documentation but believes good documentation will be available once the system matures. He said CMS already provides good documentation for the Medicare 508 and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act data security compliance programs. 

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