CMS: 700K Applications Completed Through State, Federal Exchanges
On Thursday, the Obama administration said that at least 700,000 people have completed the application process for health coverage through the state and federally run health insurance exchanges since enrollment opened on Oct. 1, the Los Angeles Times' "Politics Now" reports (Hennessey, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 10/24).
During a media conference call, CMS Communications Director Julie Bataille declined to specify how many of the applications were filed through state-run insurance exchange websites, which have been functioning better than the federal exchange website, HealthCare.gov (Galewitz, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 10/24).
However, a Reuters analysis of states' application reports estimates that as many as 390,000 people have completed enrollment applications through the state-run exchanges (Krauskopf/Begley, Reuters, 10/24).
Bataille clarified that the number of completed applications reflects the number of applicants who have successfully determined:
- If they qualify for Medicaid and CHIP;
- Whether they are eligible to receive federal tax credits to help offset the cost of coverage; and
- How much they would have to pay for insurance.
She also noted that the figure does not necessarily mean that those applicants have selected and enrolled in a health plan (McMorris-Santoro, BuzzFeed, 10/24).
Bataille added that CMS will begin to release enrollment figures "on a monthly basis" ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 10/24). In addition, she said that exchange call centers nationwide have fielded calls from at least 1.6 million people seeking help for enrollment and that wait times now have fallen to less than one minute (Kennedy, USA Today, 10/25).
CMS Acknowledges Lack of Prior Testing
During the conference call, Bataille said CMS was faced with a "compressed timeframe" to build and test HealthCare.gov, adding that the agency could not perform sufficient end-to-end testing of its system before opening it to the public, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/24).
The acknowledgement came on the same day that four federal contractors involved in building the website testified before a House committee about the glitches and delays that have plagued the website. Among other issues, the contractors said the federal government failed to perform appropriate end-to-end testing of the system before launching it.
When pressed on how CMS considers three-and-a-half years -- from the time the ACA was enacted in March 2010 to Oct. 1 -- a compressed timeframe, Bataille said, "When you look at the complexity of the system and all of the pieces that are interrelated, we had to put those pieces in place."
She declined to confirm whether HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was aware of the problems before the launch. However, she said the website is getting better and expressed confidence that more consumers will be able to enroll in plans by Dec. 15, the deadline for individuals seeking coverage beginning Jan. 1 (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 10/24).
Bataille told reporters that CMS is prioritizing problems with the application process, such as error messages, blank Web pages or website freezes, adding that other "bugs" are being addressed as they occur (USA Today, 10/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.