Computer glitches and problems with state exchange websites will likely create delays with Tuesday's Obamacare rollout and some marketplaces won't be ready right away, state and federal health officials report.
Problems are being reported nationwide and President Barack Obama last week admitted there would be "a few" glitches, reports The Washington Post,
which he said would be exaggerated by opponents.
“They’ll have their cameras ready to document anything that doesn’t go completely right,” he said.
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But there are more than just a few glitches, state officials report. Some of the key functions of the online marketplaces will not be ready right away on Oct. 1, and some of the consumer guides to help people sign up for coverage aren't yet certified.
Some of the problems being reported are serious. For example, in Washington D.C., people using the online marketplace won't know immediately if they qualify for subsidies for the insurance premiums or if they will be able to get Medicaid.
Oregon residents won't be able to initially enroll in an insurance plan online; Vermont's marketplace won't be able to accept online premium payments until November; and in California, applications won't reach insurers until a month after a resident applies for coverage.
HHS Spokeswoman Joanne Peters said the Health Insurance Marketplace will open in every state on Oct. 1, and officials will be ready to address any problems. But the glitches are making state officials nervous about running the online sites.
In Colorado, the marketplace will have delays in some online functions because testing is still being completed, said spokesman Ben Davis. This means people who need federal subsidies will need to call a hotline to finish applying for insurance.
Insurers are also complaining that there are errors in premiums shoppers will see online, The Post reported. In addition, government officials are saying that Medicaid applications will not be transferred electronically from the federally run exchange to the state level until November, just two months before people are legally required to be covered.
While Obama administration officials are warning that there will be some rough spots, they claim the problems won't keep people for signing up for insurance before Jan. 1, when Americans are required to have a health care insurance plan in place.
The broad scope of the law means that glitches were going to happen, reports Network World,
but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is prepared to issue workarounds. In addition, there is a six-month open enrollment period, so people may not be rushing to buy insurance the first day the exchanges are ready to open, industry leaders said.
The sites will still go online Oct. 1, government officials promise.
“You’re going to have thousands of mistakes. Nobody is going to say we’re not starting on Oct. 1,” Joel Ario, a health-care consultant who formerly oversaw exchanges at the Department of Health and Human Services, told The Washington Post. "But in some situations, you may see a redefinition of what ‘start’ means.”
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The widespread problems will likely spur further attacks from Republicans, and are coming at a particularly bad time for the Obama administration -- on the same day when a government shutdown
could start over a standstill over funding the healthcare law.
Obama said in a speech on Thursday at Prince George's Community College in Maryland that the website will allow customers to compare and prices and easily shop "side-by-side the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak, same way you shop for a TV on Amazon.”
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