Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Marketplace CEO Kevin Counihan said the Obamacare website, healthcare.gov, has been updated with a link that allows individuals to upload their immigration documents.
The healthcare reform law does not extend benefits to undocumented immigrants. According to the National Immigration Law Center, illegal immigrants are only eligible for emergency care under federal law, nonemergency medical services at community health centers or safety-net hospitals and emergency Medicaid based on their income.
Children of undocumented immigrants that are citizens or legal permanent residents can apply for coverage from a state insurance exchange, premium tax credits and Medicaid or CHIP.
“We view ourselves as a learning organization. We learn from our customers every day,” Counihan said on a conference call, adding that there have been a number of different fixes and system enhancements to the health insurance exchange marketplace.
“One of the things we learned is the importance of expanding our language support and so our language line has now been expanded to support 200 languages,” he added.
Counihan said HHS is aware that some individuals are having problems showing their green card as part of the drop down menu on the website.
“We fixed that issue. Currently we now have uploaded a link to include immigration documents, so this is just meant to be an example of ways that we’re learning and providing those learnings into tangible fixes,” he said.
At this point of implementation, Counihan said the agency is where it wants to be with the healthcare marketplace.
“Are we doing a perfect job? No. Are we able to have the enrollment system solve everyone’s specific individual issue right away? No, but the system is meeting the vast majority of the needs of our customers and we are prepared to address each individual’s specific issues through our call center and customer service support,” he said.
Counihan said HHS has more than 65,000 brokers available to help Americans navigate the marketplace.
This year’s enrollment period began on Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15. The last enrollment period started in October of 2013.
Counihan was asked for his response to individuals who are blaming the healthcare law for their premium increases.
“Premiums in health insurance, as you probably know, are complicated — they’re based on a variety of different factors including age, ZIP code, things of that sort and the carriers make adjustments to those factors continually,” he said.
Counihan noted that an older person does not pay more than three times what a younger person pays under the law.
“Some of the folks may have been impacted by the rating-band change and that could cause a higher type of rate situation,” he said.
Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Richard Frank emphasized that current rate increases are lower than past increases.
CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Andy Slavitt said HHS does not plan to change the deadline for current enrollees to update their coverage.
Dec. 15, 2014, is the last date to enroll for coverage to start on Jan. 1, 2015.
“These are critical deadlines that we’re living with,” he said.