White House: Americans Still Have to Double-Check Obamacare

Image: White House: Americans Still Have to Double-Check Obamacare

Tuesday, 03 Dec 2013 09:17 AM

By Courtney Coren

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The White House still is worried about HealthCare.gov.

Even if you've navigated through the embattled website to purchase health insurance, you'd still better double-check that you're really insured due to problems with the back end of the system, that connects to insurers, the Obama administration has warned.

Much of the concern over the troubled Obamacare website rollout has focused on making sure it works for the end-user, but, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday  there still are concerns about the behind-the-scenes functions that processes applications and pass information along to the insurance companies, The Guardian reported.

Carney advised customers using the healthcare-exchange website to double-check with insurers to make sure they are signed up, saying that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency that oversees the website, is making an effort to contact users "to let them know to be in touch with their insurer to pay their first premium to ensure that coverage kicks in."

It's a customer's responsibility to make sure he or she has insurance by the Jan. 1 deadline, Carney said.

"What I would say is that (the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) is reaching out to those who have enrolled to make sure they know the steps they need to take to ensure coverage kicks in," he said. "If consumers are not sure if they are enrolled, they should call our customer call center or the insurer of their choice to make sure they are covered by Jan. 1."

Jeffrey Zients, who is overseeing fixes to the healthcare website, said Sunday that the problems with the back-end have been known for a while, but fixing the glitches consumers faced was the priority.

The government announced at the end of November that the part of the Obamacare process that is supposed to send payments to insurers isn't ready, and that companies are temporarily responsible for estimating what they are owed instead of relying on the government to calculate payments.

Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said on Nov. 19 that at least 30 percent of the website had yet to be built, including the back-end portions that are supposed to send information to insurance companies and process payments.

According to The Guardian, some insurance companies say they have been contacted by customers who say they are enrolled, but the insurer has no record of them. Others have completed applications without payment information, which means those applicants are not officially on the books.

"If insurers cannot track and collect premium dollars each month, the extra work of doubling back with customers and insurers will frustrate consumers and delay coverage," wrote Jon Kingsdale — who oversaw the Massachusetts exchange set up by Mitt Romney — in a op-ed in The Washington Post.  "And a mounting backlog could eventually compromise the fiscal integrity of the exchange."

Carney said Monday that the back-end issues were now being addressed.

"CMS has daily conversations with issuers to get feedback from them," he said. "We are going to continue to work with issuers to make sure whatever remaining problem exist are addressed and fixed."

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