It is becoming increasingly apparent the software problems plaguing the federal online health insurance marketplace will not be resolved by Nov. 30 despite President Barack Obama's assurances, The Washington Post reported
"By the end of this month, we anticipate that [HealthCare.gov
] is going to be working the way it is supposed to, all right?" the president said last week.
The federal online health insurance marketplace — used by residents of 36 states to apply for coverage online — cannot handle more than 20,000 to 30,000 people at a time, which is about half the projected capacity.
Technical contractors working to repair the system appear unlikely to overcome the problem by the end of the month, the Post reported.
Several alternatives are being floated, according to the Post.
One option raised by Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger would be to allow insurance policies to be renewed, and remain in effect, until November 2014. This rules out the possibility of federal subsidies that might have been available through the exchange.
"Honestly," Praeger said, "it's just a big mess right now . . . I don't know what to tell people."
Both the House and Senate are working on legislation that would extend individual insurance plans.
The other alternatives require some interfacing with out-of-order elements of the HealthCare.gov site.
For example, consumers could be directed to enroll through one of 17 federally sponsored call centers staffed by some 10,000 counselors — also known as navigators.
Consumers are reporting that the telephone counselors lack the authority to troubleshoot some problems and that promises of supervisors calling back have gone unfulfilled.
Yet another alternative would be to allow insurance companies to sign up customers directly. The companies, however, need to connect with the online system to decide whether enrollees qualify for federal subsidies.
Technicians are giving this problem their priority.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is expected to hear Wednesday from administration technology officials about the glitches affecting HealthCare.gov, which include consumers facing frozen computer screens while trying to enter information, then getting time-out errors, the Post reported.
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