Since shortly after the October 1 launch of Obamacare's exchanges, we've been hearing complaints from health insurers about the transmission of enrollment data through the federally run insurance portal, HealthCare.gov. It's not coming through correctly, industry officials have said. In some cases, it's not coming through at all.
But until now, there's been little indication of how many people were affected by the problems. According to The Washington Post, the errors are pervasive.
The errors cumulatively have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1, according to two government and health-care industry officials. The White House disputed the figure but declined to provide its own.
The mistakes include failure 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 errors have been accumulating since HealthCare.gov opened two months ago, even as the Obama administration has been working to make it easier for consumers to sign up for coverage, the government and industry officials said.
Government sources tell the Post that so far about 149,000 people have signed up for plans within the federal exchange system, which covers 36 states. More have picked plans within the state-run exchanges. But two months after launch, enrollment totals still lag far behind the administration's goal of 500,000 private insurance sign-ups for just the month of October.
And in part because of the transmission errors, many of the people who have signed up are still not fully enrolled, according to the Post:
The errors, if not corrected, mean that tens of thousands of consumers are at risk of not having coverage when the insurance goes into effect Jan. 1, because the health plans they picked do not yet have accurate information needed to send them a bill. Under the 2010 law designed to reshape the health-care system, consumers are not considered to have coverage unless they have paid at least the first monthly insurance premium.
In theory, discrepancies between federal enrollment records and data received by insurers is supposed to be run through a monthly comparison process. But that can't happen yet. As the Post notes, "The part of the online system that is supposed to perform this comparison, known as 'reconciliation,' is not yet built, according to government officials."