Govt Probes Eligibility of Thousands Getting Obamacare Subsidies

Monday, 16 Jun 2014 09:23 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The Obama administration is questioning hundreds of thousands of people who are  receiving subsidies under Obamacare based on concerns that many may not be eligible for  the financial assistance.

According to The New York Times, as many as 2 million people who signed up for insurance coverage under the new healthcare law have submitted personal information that is inconsistent with data from other government records.

The government is asking customers to verify their information, and some people who are receiving premium tax credits may be required to repay it.

"The law requires us to double- and triple-check this data," Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the Times. "We're reaching out to consumers — via mail, email and phone calls — to encourage them to provide supporting documentation."

Republicans have raised concerns that the government did not put an adequate system in place to accurately confirm eligibility before extending benefits.

"Many Americans are going to find out that they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service because their premium tax credits were paid incorrectly," Minnesota GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen told the Times.

Meanwhile, some consumers being questioned by the government say they have submitted the documentation, but it appears the marketplace has not been able to keep track of it.

"In some cases, consumers say they already sent the documents to the federal marketplace. They don't understand why they are being asked to send them in again," Mara Youdelman, an attorney at the National Health Law Program, an advocacy group for low-income people, told the Times.

According to figures from the Congressional Budget Office, the average subsidy received per person this year is an estimated $4,400. A family of four with an income of $80,000 could be forced to repay as much as $2,500.

Serco, a contractor hired by the government to resolve discrepancies, said that technical problems with Healthcare.gov have limited its ability to investigate and resolve inconsistencies. Until recently, the company had to rely on "manual processes," an executive told the Times, to check information provided by customers against government data.

Ronald Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal-leaning consumer group, told the Times that while he does not expect the government will uncover major discrepancies, he is concerned that "the longer the process of verifying and resolving inconsistencies takes, the more some consumers will owe when they reconcile their tax returns."

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