Worried Insurers: Let Us Bypass Healthcare Website

Image: Worried Insurers: Let Us Bypass Healthcare Website

Tuesday, 12 Nov 2013 10:13 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 receive subsidies to bypass healthcare.gov and go directly to the insurance carrier.

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

The administration has so far thwarted the idea of allowing a direct nexus between consumers and insurers, The New York Times reports, in part due to privacy concerns, though it is “continuing to pursue additional avenues by which people can enroll.”

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

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

Federal investigators this year deemed QSSI a “high risk” after it was revealed the company “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 as well as possible identity theft by allowing for inappropriate access to personal information.

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

Allowing a direct consumer-to-insurance carrier-link would reduce traffic on healthcare.gov and ensure consumers receive correct subsidy estimates. Insurance carriers are concerned that without confirming a consumer’s subsidy amount 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.

Though there has been talk of extending the enrollment period, 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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