New ObamaCare nightmare: Insurers getting bad data from exchanges

posted at 9:21 am on October 18, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The problems of enrolling in the exchanges have been bad enough, and the obstacles to actually buying an insurance plan well documented.  However, the consumer experience is far from the only problem plaguing the exchanges.  The connection to the insurers passes bad data, forcing insurers to hire more temp workers and leaving in question whether anyone is properly covered at all.

Yes, it’s more than just the “glitches,” as CBS’ Jan Crawford reports this morning:

Insurers say the federal health-care marketplace is generating flawed data that is straining their ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have gotten through so far, in a sign that technological problems extend further than the website traffic and software issues already identified.

Emerging errors include duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspect eligibility determinations, say executives at more than a dozen health plans. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska said it had to hire temporary workers to contact new customers directly to resolve inaccuracies in submissions. Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans.

That’s one customer for one of the major underwriters in Ohio over a seventeen-day period.  That’s hardly a success story, nor is it improving much:

Of 209,000 users who began to register on healthcare.gov on Monday or Tuesday of this week, just over one-quarter finished the process, according to an estimate made by the analytics firm comScore for The Wall Street Journal. In the first week, only 10% did so. The estimates are based on a sampling of Internet users tracked by the company.

Even the improvement has its issues.  The reason that insurers can fix the bad data now is that so few people can successfully navigate the exchanges.  When that side improves, the real disaster may begin:

As more of those users attempted to sign up for plans this week, insurers began noticing problems with enrollment data. For now, they say they are largely able to manually correct the errors. But as enrollment increases—up to 7 million consumers are expected to sign up in the next 5½ months—that may not be possible, they worry.

Not too many of these insurers are speaking publicly — yet –  and the Wall Street Journal explains why:

Health-department officials have pressured insurers to refrain from commenting publicly about the problems, according to executives at four health plans, who asked not to be named. The HHS declined to comment.

That won’t last long, though.  As Erika noted last night, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will be holding hearings on the ObamaCare rollout, and a number of voices in Congress want HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to resign over the incompetent handling of HHS’ biggest project in a generation.  James Taranto says it won’t help (via Instapundit):

Sebelius’s siblings say sis is staying. The secretary’s sister, Ellen Gilligan, notes that a departure would be a problem for Obama: “The White House is smart enough to know that if she steps aside or they ask her to resign, they will never get anybody else confirmed.” That seems overstated–Democrats will have 55 Senate seats as soon as New Jersey’s Cory Booker is sworn in–but a confirmation battle would still subject ObamaCare to political scrutiny, which would be awkward for Democrats and delightful for Republicans.

Gilligan also says: “Plus, I don’t think they [in the White House] hold her responsible.” It seems to us that’s right. We have no use for Sebelius, but it seems to us wrong to make her a scapegoat for ObamaCare’s failure. A better manager might have managed to get a website working, but no one could really make ObamaCare work, for its flaw is in its basic design.

There are people who deserve to lose their jobs for ObamaCare, and some of them have. In 2010 three senators and numerous representatives were ousted by voters after having voted in favor of the legislation. The following year Rep. Nancy Pelosi lost her job as House speaker. Over at the Internal Revenue Service, Lois Lerner recently “retired” after her role in the agency’s politicization came to light.

Unfortunately, thanks in part to her, the man who most deserved to be fired over ObamaCare, Obama himself, instead had his tenure extended by four years. Had the president been ousted, Sebelius would have been as well. But because we are stuck with Obama, we are stuck with ObamaCare. As for who is secretary of HHS, what difference, at this point, does it make?

Well, no one ever got rich betting on accountability in this administration, with Taranto’s allusion to Benghazi being a most adept skewer indeed.  Still, Cabinet officials exist in part to deflect blame from a President when things go badly, and they did indeed go badly here.  Throwing Sebelius under the bus would at least give Obama an opportunity to declare that a new executive at HHS will clear out the incompetents who mismanaged this project, which would give the White House a few months to get things under control.  The attacks from Congress will happen anyway, especially when angry constituents start flooding Senate offices with phone calls about insurance gaps, high costs, and fumbled plan purchases through the federal exchange.  Kicking Sebelius out has its problems, but keeping her in place endorses this disaster.


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