There seems to be a difference of opinion about the functionality of HealthCare.gov, the Obamacare website.
The administration says errors have been reduced to “near zero” while insurance companies claim the fixes have been “overstated.”
If what the companies say is true — they have little motivation for lying, or exaggerating the truth — January 1 will become another disastrous day for the Obamacare rollout.
Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, acknowledged that the government had failed to inform insurance companies about some people who had chosen health plans on HealthCare.gov, but she said the number of such cases from Oct. 1 to Dec. 5 was lower than 15,000.
“Since the beginning of December, missing 834s as a percentage of total enrollments has been close to zero” — down from 15 percent in the two weeks starting Oct. 13, she said.
Ms. Bataille said most of the problems occurred from Oct. 1 to mid-November, as enrollment reports on some consumers “were either not being generated, or had errors due to larger technical system issues.”
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the government sent information to insurers listing everyone who had enrolled in a plan through the federal marketplace. Insurers are supposed to compare the information with their own records and with the daily reports they received from the government over the last 10 weeks.
Insurers said that they had found many discrepancies and errors and that the government was overstating the improvements in HealthCare.gov.
In some instances, they said, the federal government reported that the home address for a new policyholder was outside an insurer’s service area. In other cases, a child was listed as the main subscriber — the person responsible for paying premiums — and parents were listed as dependents.
In some cases, children were enrolled in a policy by the federal government and parents were left off, or vice versa. In other cases, the government mixed up the members of a family: A child or spouse was listed two or three times in the same application in late November. Such errors can have financial implications, increasing the amount of premiums that a family is required to pay.
While some of the problems were discovered in the last few days, insurers said that they had previously reported many of the errors to the “help desk” at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and that the problems remained unresolved.
It hardly matters that 15,000 enrollees aren’t being reported to insurance companies — the so-called missing “834” reports. That’s the least of their worries. Whether it’s the consumers who can’t fill out a form properly or a glitch with the website that has heretofore been hidden from CMS, the bottom line is that when unknown thousands of consumers try to use the health care system starting on January 1, they are going to be in for a very rude surprise:
Federal officials, insurers and health care providers said they were concerned about confusion and possible chaos in the early days of January, when people try to use the new insurance coverage they believe they have.
The government’s overriding message to insurers is: Do whatever you have to do to maximize enrollment and to provide coverage by Jan. 1 to anyone who wants it. Federal health officials have told insurers that they can sort out the details and work out financial arrangements with the government later.
“Confusion and possible chaos…” pretty much defines Obamacare. With so little reliable information coming from the government, and insurance companies contradicting the happy-face pronouncements of CMS and the White House about the website’s success, you have to wonder where the truth lies.
The administration’s less-than-zero credibility on Obamacare statistics appears to be matched by ignorance (or exaggeration) regarding how well HealthCare.gov is actually working. Consumers may be able to navigate the site more efficiently, although there is anecdotal evidence to the contrary, but what good is a smooth-running website if the information sent to insurers is bogus?
Chaos and confusion may be the hallmark of Obamacare, but these are real people whose lives are being turned upside down because of the incompetence of federal and state officials. It’s a preventable tragedy that is only just beginning.