Up to one-third of the 149,000 individuals who have been able to sign up for Obamacare — 44,700 people — may not have health insurance after all come Jan. 1, even though HealthCare.gov accepted their applications and confirmed coverage.
In yet another acknowledged blunder, administration officials have admitted that people “might not be officially signed up with their selected issuer, even if the website has told them they are,” ABC News reports.
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Under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, policies are not considered in effect until purchasers have paid at least the first monthly premium.
The latest round of problems with the beleaguered website include a system glitch that fails to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies, The Washington Post reports.
The laundry list of failures has been growing since Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov, even as administration officials repeatedly have promised that things were getting better.
It further underscores criticisms by Obamacare opponents and shatters the already fractured credibility of a president who has continued to over-promise and under-deliver.
The White House set a Nov. 30 deadline to have the site fully functional, and publicly congratulated itself early Sunday with assurances that the site was at least 90 percent effective. The latest revelation brings that statistic down to at least 66 percent.
The new glitches reveal problems with the system’s back end, where an applicant’s personal information is transferred to the insurance carrier. The White House lays the blame for many of the errors on users, who may have clicked twice on the confirmation button or toggled backward and forward on the site, according to The Washington Post.
Insurance companies, the Post reports, have been worried about problems with enrollment records for weeks and had voiced those concerns to government officials.
After weeks of trying, a 61-year-old Georgia man thought he finally had broken through the system and successfully enrolled through the federal marketplace, according to ABC News. But days later, Bob Shlora said, he learned the carrier, Humana, had no record of the transaction, even though Shlora received a policy ID number from HealthCare.gov.
“I feel like this: My application was taken … by a bureaucrat, it was put on a conveyor belt and it’s still going around, and it’s never going to leave the building,” he told ABC. “I’ve lost hope. If it happens, great.”
A spokeswoman for CMS, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, places the onus on consumers, recommending they contact the insurance company to make sure they have coverage.
CMS’ Julie Bataille said that a bug causing “about 80 percent” of the errors with transferring the information to insurance carriers has been fixed. Similar bugs, such as one that caused inaccurate coding of family relationships — a child showing up as a spouse, for example — also have been repaired, she said.
Despite watered-down promises that by Dec. 1 the improved site would be able to handle 50,000 simultaneous users, people were sent to virtual waiting rooms after that number reached just 35,000, according to National Public Radio. About 375,000 people visited the site on Cyber Monday, twice as many as on an average Monday.
In an effort to extinguish a firestorm on another issue, the administration has offered to compensate insurers as an incentive for them to extend individual policies that were to have been canceled Jan. 1.
“The administration said it could provide financial assistance to certain insurers through a program under which the government will share in (insurers') losses and profits for the next three years,” The New York Times reports.
That financial boost would be on top of an estimated $1 trillion in federal subsidies the government already plans to pay insurance carriers to make coverage more affordable for low- and middle-income people.
The administration did not provide the Times with an estimate of the cost to assist insurers, explaining that it didn’t know how many people would stay on existing plans or enroll in new ones.
Constituents and politicians became enraged after learning President Barack Obama’s “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” mantra was inaccurate. In response, Obama allowed Americans to extend their individual policies for a year, though insurers maintain that doing so could collapse the industry.
Insurance companies fear they will be saddled with sicker, more-expensive customers via the federal healthcare marketplace because healthier Americans will keep their existing plans for another year.
Premiums were set based on the original Affordable Care Act guidelines, and now, supporters say, changing things could annihilate the market.
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