Insurance Companies Largely in the Dark About Who Their New Customers Are
October 12, 2013 - 6:48 am
Is there any part of the healthcare.gov network that’s working properly?
Well, presumably, the webpage that tells people the site is experiencing difficulties is performing magnificently. But beyond that, nothing much else appears to be anywhere close to operational.
If the website were a little league baseball game, it would have been shut down due to the slaughter rule. And what is truly remarkable about the situation, is that much of our not-very-inquisitive press is accepting without a blink of an eye, the administration explanation that the reason for all of these problems is that traffic is through the roof and that once we get adequate server capacity and fix a few minor bugs, things will be just peachy.
Perhaps our media should listen to the insurance companies.
The federal health-care exchange that opened a dozen days ago is marred by snags beyond the widely publicized computer gridlock that has thwarted Americans trying to buy a health plan. Even when consumers have been able to sign up, insurers sometimes can’t tell who their new customers are because of a separate set of computer defects.
The problems stem from a feature of the online marketplace’s computer system that is designed to send each insurer a daily report listing people who have just enrolled. According to several insurance industry officials, the reports are sometimes confusing and duplicative. In some cases, they show — correctly or not — that the same person enrolled and canceled several times on a single day.
The ability of consumers to sign up for a health plan, and the ability of the insurers to know who they are covering, is key to the success of the federal law that will for the first time require most Americans to have health insurance starting Jan. 1. The Web site www.healthcare.gov is the main path for millions of Americans in 36 states to purchase new coverage.
The flawed enrollment reports illustrate that the site is bedeviled by problems that go beyond what the Obama administration has acknowledged in explaining the creaky performance of the exchange so far.
“Creaky?” This is a full-out, stomach-turning, metal-on-metal grinding disaster. I’ve heard transmissions in the process of being stripped that sounded better.
But the flawed reports are only the tip of the iceberg for the insurance companies. Evidently, the data they’re getting is so unreliable, they are putting off signing their new customers up until they can figure out if the subsidy information being given by the website is accurate.
For instance, one major insurance carrier, Cigna, sent a notice Wednesday to insurance brokers instructing them to wait until November to try to sign up customers who might qualify for a subsidy, according to Joseph Mondy, a Cigna spokesman. He said that the company does not yet trust the reliability of the part of the exchange that is supposed to calculate the tax credits that will, for the first time, help some Americans pay for private health coverage.
Cigna is one of the insurers that has built its own online “portal” for brokers to use, but that portal must communicate with the federal exchange to find out about a potential subsidy.
Cigna is selling health plans via the federal exchange in four states: Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Texas. Mondy said the carrier has seen “multiple enrollments” coming through for the same customer on the same day.
A Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in a Southern state said that it has also gotten simultaneous reports of the same consumers enrolling as of Jan. 1 and cancelling as of Dec. 31, 2014.
“It’s a glitch that . . . needs to be fixed,” said a spokesman for the plan, who, like most insurers interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing the Obama administration.
Imagine being terrified in America of telling the truth about a government operation because a company fears a backlash from an administration? American businesses have learned their lessons well by watching what happened to the Tea Party and other conservative groups when they didn’t say nice things about the president.
Perhaps nothing illustrates the absolute stupidity of the design and architecture of the website than this experience in attempting to sign up by a software engineer:
James Turner, a software engineer from Derry, N.H., said he has spent seven hours since Oct. 2 trying to enroll but keeps encountering issues that make have made it impossible for him to complete the application. Turner, 51, one of a number of software engineers who have written online critiques of the system, said the most infuriating one involves his wife. According to the system, he said, “I have four spouses.”
He said it has been impossible to delete the phantom family members from his profile.
Lying about the seriousness of the software problems, lying about not having knowledge of the numbers of enrollees, lying about how easy it is to sign up once you get through the process — a law built on lies is being rolled out with bigger lies.
Will anyone even notice? They haven’t so far.