Republican lawmakers demanded answers Thursday to the disastrous technical glitches that blocked Americans from enrolling in new health insurance exchanges — and whether they'll be penalized for not buying plans.
The Chattanoogan.com reported Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and California Rep. Darrell Issa sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
requesting information by Oct. 24 “to help us evaluate the extent of the problems with Obamacare’s rollout and for us to better determine whether any corrective legislative actions are necessary.”
The pair blasted the official explanation of the flawed rollout, saying “From day one . . . healthcare.gov has been plagued by what administration officials initially referred to as technical glitches."
"After six days the administration finally admitted the glitches were ‘design and software problems that have kept customers from applying online for coverage.’"
They cited reports of waits as long as 36 hours for potential enrollees, with "many waiting for hours only to give up."
"As many as 99 of every 100 applications are not able to be processed," the pair charged, saying they're now concerned "relatively large numbers of people believe they have coverage" starting in January when their applications in reality haven't been processed.
The lawmakers listed a host of problems, from the inability of "tens of thousands of people" to create accounts, to a system that makes "inaccurate determinations" of eligibility, to drop-down tools and identity checking systems that don't properly function.
The pair now want to know how many people successfully enrolled, details on the technical problems — and how much it'll cost to fix them — and whether HHS "decided to go live with healthcare.gov knowing there were problems with transmitting data to insurers."
The lawmakers also want to know of people who tried to enroll but were unsuccessful because of the "system's failures'' still face a tax penality if they don't enroll for 2014.
“According to some reports,” they wrote, “the administration was repeatedly warned that the federal exchange had significant problems. Insurers complained that during tests of the exchange there were difficulties with transmissions to insurers, with insurers not receiving all necessary data about individuals enrolling in plans during tests.
"Did HHS go live with healthcare.gov knowing there were problems with transmitting data to insurers?" their letter asked. Also Thursday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., blasted the administration for the not-ready-for-primetime behavior, Politico reported
“Despite the widespread belief that the administration was not ready for the health law’s Oct. 1 launch, top officials and lead IT contractors looked us in the eye and assured us all systems were a go,” Upton said in the statement.
“Instead, here we are 10 days later, and delays and technical failures have reached epidemic proportions.”
Upton's committee called on contractors in charge of building the federal enrollment system on healthcare.gov and the data hub responsible for testing subsidy eligibility, respectively — to square their late-summer assessments with the reality that technical flaws have been hampering the rollout of new Obamacare coverage programs.
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