Insurers: Let Consumers Bypass

Tuesday, 12 Nov 2013 11:28 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Health insurers have so little trust in the Obamacare website that they are pressuring the administration to allow consumers entitled to subsidies to bypass and go directly to the companies.

Since its disastrous rollout Oct. 1, the government website has been an epic failure. The list of technical problems is endless and growing. It began with system delays and timeouts and more recently has been plagued with capacity problems that surface when a consumer is further along in the application process.

The administration so far has thwarted allowing direct access by consumers to insurers, The New York Times reports, in part due to privacy concerns. The White House, though, is “continuing to pursue additional avenues by which people can enroll.”

Officials reportedly are worried that users’ personal data, such as financial and tax information and immigration status, might be compromised, according to the Times.

Quality Software Services Inc., the company charged with fixing the website mess, already has put at risk the personal information of more than 6 million Medicare beneficiaries, The Hill reports.

Federal investigators this year called the company a “high risk” after it was revealed it “failed to stop its employees from connecting unauthorized USB devices (such as iPods) to highly sensitive Medicare systems.”

Doing so risks malware infecting the system asnd opens the door to identity theft by allowing for inappropriate access to personal information.

The company put additional safeguards in place following the government report, according to a spokesman.

Allowing a direct consumer-to-company link would reduce traffic on and ensure consumers receive correct subsidy estimates. Insurance carriers are concerned that without confirming individual subsidies, it could end up “leaving the insurers or the people themselves financially exposed.”

“The main stumbling block for some consumers is the need to determine their eligibility for subsidies, and the amount,” the Times reports. “Insurance companies can now only estimate the amount for them. It is up to the government to verify eligibility, using personal financial information from tax returns and the like.”

The Obama administration has promised that the website would be fully functional by Nov. 30. Consumers are required to enroll by Dec. 15 for coverage that begins Jan. 1. Open enrollment ends March 31.

There has been talk of extending the enrollment period, but insurance carriers oppose the idea, arguing that doing so would encourage younger and healthier Americans to delay. That demographic is vital to balancing the cost of covering older and sicker people.

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