A large number of the 1.1 million people who have signed up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov will start the New Year unable to use their new plans.
Inaccurate data, lack of payment, the deadline extension, glitches on the back-end of the federally ran health insurance exchange website, and other factors will leave many Americans without the coverage they think they've signed up for.
Enrollment isn't considered complete until payment is received, but only about half of those enrolled have paid their first premium, according to data from 100 insurers in 17 states compiled by Benaissance, a third-party billing firm, The Wall Street Journal is reporting
"There's definitely going to be a period of confusion, until people do pay their premiums and their coverage is turned on," said Mark Waterstraat, Benaissance chief strategy officer.
While the front-end of HealthCare.gov, which allows individuals to complete an application for insurance, has been largely fixed from the glitches that plagued it when the website was unveiled Oct. 1, insurers still face glitches that plague the site's back-end as they work to complete the enrollment process.
Insurers are receiving duplicate applications, inaccurate data, and in some cases no application at all, which has also made it difficult to finalize enrollment, Politico says
"The front end of the site is now finally working quite well — in contrast to the very serious back-end issues that still remain," said Robert Laszewski, an insurance industry consultant.
Individuals were given until Christmas Eve to sign up, and some insurance companies have warned that they simply don't have enough employees to get the applications completed by the Jan. 1 deadline.
"The insurance companies who have the biggest enrollment may not have enough resources to enroll everyone properly — or enough time to correct errors, before Wednesday," Sheryl Skolnick, industry expert at CRT Capital told Politico.
"We'll find out if there is a flood of newly insured into hospitals on Jan. 1 or doctors' offices/urgent care clinics on Jan. 2, 2014 who think they are insured but aren't," she said. "That's when the real work matching up the who with the what will take place."
Skolnick added that one of the biggest concerns with pushing the deadline to Dec. 24 was whether one week would be enough time to get the applications processed for those who waited until the last minute to enroll.
And this isn't just a problem for the federally run healthcare exchange website, but something that is plaguing the state-run exchanges, as well.
Some states are allowing individuals until Jan. 15 to pay for coverage that will start Jan. 1. Others have pushed the deadline to Jan. 10.
If an individual needs to see a doctor and the enrollment process has not been completed, he or she will have to cover the bill and be reimbursed at a later date.
While enrollment has increased tremendously since HealthCare.gov was first launched, it still has a ways to go before it reaches the more than three million enrollees the government was hoping for by the end of December.
And the Obama Administration is concerned that if there are more problems with the implementation process, if could be another public relations nightmare for Democrats as they head into the midterm elections in late 2014.
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