The Obama administration insisted that they would have a working web portal for ObamaCare by October 1st, but they couldn’t even get people within a dozen clicks of determining their eligibility. Kathleen Sebelius tried pretending that all was well more than once in live events, only to have the website crash in her presence. After that, the White House appointed Jeff Zients as an interim grand poobah for all things related to HealthCare.gov, and promised a “fully functional” web portal by December 1. That promise, however, got whittled down to delivering a “significantly different user experience” by Sebelius as the deadline approached.
Did Sebelius manage to deliver even that much? Not really, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning, and it’s going to get a lot worse when people who think they have coverage try using it in January:
Insurers and federal officials sifting through insurance applications under the health-care law have identified a raft of errors, including missing customers and inaccurate eligibility determinations that mean people may be enrolled in the wrong coverage. …
In some cases described by a state official with knowledge of the matter, legal immigrants who aren’t yet eligible for Medicaid in Illinois—it takes five years of residence to join the state-run programs for low-income people—were nevertheless told they would be enrolled.
The risk that consumers could remain in limbo as the health law’s coverage expansion begins in January has been a continual political threat to the Obama administration, which has addressed flaws—ranging from a malfunctioning website to the cancellation of health policies that don’t meet the law’s requirements—with a patchwork of last-minute fixes.
The White House wants insurers to establish a grace period after January 1 for payments of premiums. Insurers aren’t too keen on the idea, and point out that premium payments aren’t really the big issue anyway:
But insurance-industry executives warn that some of these data problems will only emerge once customers begin seeking care in January at physicians’ offices, pharmacies and hospitals. The result could be bureaucratic chaos as doctors and patients storm insurers’ phone banks and federal officials work to clean up the inaccuracies.
There will be “eligibles lost in the ether,” said Mark Bertolini, chief executive of Aetna Inc.,in an interview. In some cases, children who are meant to be enrolled in their parents plans aren’t listed there, he said.
The Healthcare.gov web portal apparently chokes on family coverage, despite that being a decades-long industry practice. A “glitch” in the system somehow splits them off from their parents’ households and treats them like adults with no income, pushing them into Medicaid.
The news is just as bad if you were an early adopter. You may not know it until you try to use your benefits, but you have to delete your account and start over if you enrolled before December 1:
Administration officials urged customers to contact the companies they believe will cover them to verify their enrollment, or call state Medicaid agencies to confirm that they are in fact eligible for those programs. People who believe they have received inaccurate eligibility determinations can appeal the decisions, HHS officials have said.
To correct inaccuracies, some people may have to delete accounts and start over now that some glitches have been repaired, people familiar with the matter said.
Sebelius promised us “a significantly different user experience.” Sounds like deja vu all over again instead.