Errors Plague ACA Enrollment; White House Discourages Paper Apps
On Friday, the Obama administration announced that about 25% of enrollment records submitted through the federal health insurance exchange in October and November could contain errors, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 12/6).
The issue involves the so-called 834 form, which is a daily electronic file sent from HealthCare.gov to insurers with the total number of enrollees for that day. Without those forms, insurers are unable to bill consumers, who are ultimately unable to make their first payment and risk being uninsured on Jan. 1.
CMS spokesperson Julie Bataille noted that recent fixes to the website have lowered the error rate to about 10% of submitted applications since Dec. 1 (Corbett Dooren, Wall Street Journal, 12/6). Bataille recommended that consumers contact the insurers if they have completed their applications but have not received confirmation from the insurer (New York Times, 12/6).
According to the Washington Post, insurers are working with CMS to try to fix a variety of errors with the enrollment records, such as cases in which the system:
- Failed to send insurers records of people who had enrolled, also known as "orphans";
- Sent duplicative enrollment and cancellation notices for the same person;
- Sent incorrect information about family members; and
- Made mistakes involving federal subsidies.
During a conference call with about 600 insurance industry representatives, administration officials said they plan to have the automated system -- known as "reconciliation" -- functioning flawlessly by the middle of the month. However, the part of the system responsible for the process has yet to be completed.
In the meantime, CMS officials said they plan to send each participating insurer a computer filing this week containing the government's list of enrollees between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30. The officials said they would send another such list immediately after the Dec. 23 deadline for individuals to enroll in coverage that begins Jan. 1 (Goldstein/Eilperin, Washington Post, 12/6).
Obama Admin. Discourages Paper Applications
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has directed navigators to stop using paper applications to enroll consumers in coverage, AP/Yahoo! News reports. According to AP/Yahoo! News, the administration is concerned that such applications would not be processed in time for coverage to begin on Jan. 1.
Mike Claffey, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Insurance, said, "We received guidance from the feds recommending that folks apply online as opposed to paper." Claffey said that the department sent a memo to the state's 1,600 navigators saying paper applications should be used only as a last resort.
Jessica Waltman -- senior vice president of government affairs for the National Association of Health Underwriters, which represents insurance brokers and agents -- said that CMS has expressed worries about paper applications, noting that the "timing concern is enormous."
However, during a call with reporters on Wednesday, Bataille told reporters, "There is still time to do paper applications" (Kennedy, AP/Yahoo! News, 12/7).
House Democrats Probe Exchange Site Security
In related news, a group of 10 House Democrats on Friday sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking them to examine the functionality and security of HealthCare.gov, CQ Roll Call reports.
In the letter, which was spearheaded by Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the lawmakers asked that the report be submitted before Congress returns from its holiday break on Jan. 6 (Adams, CQ Roll Call, 12/6).
Spanish-Language Website To Launch Soon
In other related news, the Obama administration announced that the Spanish-language version of federal health insurance exchange website, called CuidadoDeSalud.gov, will go live Friday evening, the Washington Post reports.
Several Hispanic advocacy groups this weekend are expected to test the website as part of a "soft launch," designed to help the administration identify and fix any issues. The administration in January will begin to promote the website more widely as part of its efforts to reach and enroll Spanish-speaking residents (Somashekhar, Washington Post, 12/6).
Nearly 4M Visited HealthCare.gov Last Week
In related news, more than 3.7 million people have visited HealthCare.gov since the website was retooled last weekend, according to CMS data, USA Today reports.
Bataille on Friday said that about 16,000 visitors used the new queuing system. In addition, she said about 93% of those who had difficulty accessing the site and who provided an email address returned after they received an email saying they should try again (Kennedy, USA Today, 12/7).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.