HHS: 15,000 enrollments never made it to insurers

posted at 11:01 am on December 16, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

We have wondered for more than two months about the impact of the flawed and mostly still-missing Healthcare.gov back end had on the few consumer sign-ups that actually appeared to succeed. In today’s AP/GfK poll, only 24% of the 11% of respondents who attempted to enroll through an exchange succeeded in completing their enrollment since the ObamaCare rollout — or so they think. After weeks of speculation about the bugs in the 834 reports, HHS finally admitted in a Saturday-morning document dump that 15,000 signups never got to the insurers in the first ten weeks of the program — but note the part in bold:

As the technical improvements to HealthCare.gov continue making a difference to consumers using the website, our attention remains on addressing issues with the more “back end” parts of the system, including the creation and accuracy of 834 transaction forms.  These transaction forms are processed by health plans when consumers choose a product in the Marketplace, and our priority is working to make sure that every 834 form – past and present – is accurate, and that consumers are able to successfully enroll in the coverage of their choice.

Our dedicated 834 team – led by our General Contractor QSSI and working in partnership with issuers nationwide – is laser focused on ensuring we’ve made improvements to the system for the long term, and as we move forward, addressing any issues that could potentially impact consumer coverage.  This integrated team works on reconciliation issues 24/7, and maintains a telephone hotline for issuers who have questions.

Our analysis indicates that between October 1st and December 5th, the number of consumers for whom 834s were not produced was fewer than 15,000.  But as the graph shows, since the beginning of December, missing 834s as a percentage of total enrollments has been close to zero.  These significant improvements are due to the technical fixes put in place by the end of November.

But the insurers weren’t complaining just about missing reports, but also incorrectly-formatted 834s that dumped bad data into their systems.  Even in their PR release, HHS makes the distinction between “the creation and accuracy of 834 transaction forms.” The number here, at least in terms of what HHS describes in the metric, only relates to the creation of 834s.

In fact, the Washington Post’s earlier reporting on 834s notes that HHS was dealing with three discrete issues on 834s, of which creation/transmission was only one:

About 10 percent of Obamacare enrollment files have errors. Medicare spokeswoman Julie Bataille confirmed that the agency believes about 10 percent of the health law’s enrollment files — known in insurance-speak as 834 transmissions — have some kind of error. (That figure was reported earlier Friday by Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic.)

This is a lower error rate than during the first two months of open enrollment, when the agency estimates about one in four of the transmissions had a problem.

Bataille said there are essentially three problems affecting the 834 transmissions. There are situations where HealthCare.gov doesn’t generate any transmission at all, times when it generates duplicate transmissions and situations where the transmission occurs but contains inaccurate information.

“Because there have been a number of different problems, it has made it difficult for us to quantify the total number of forms and errors over time,” Bataille said.

HHS later said that 365,000 people signed up for plans through the exchanges, and a 10% error rate — some had estimated it might be as high as a third — would mean over 36,000 failed 834s, not 15,000.  And if HHS is only now releasing the number of 834s it failed to create, it means we still don’t know how many went out with bad information, and how many are still going out with bad information.  Their Saturday news dump proclaiming that “Missing 834s are declining” to 0.38% appears to ignore the issue of existing but corrupted 834s that may still be going out to insurers.

HHS has been reluctant to part with any solid information about the 834s, for obvious reasons. They’ve hemmed and hawed about the issue almost ever since the system went on line. This press release appears to be serving that same effort of obfuscation.

Update: The Post’s Sarah Kliff also notes that this only addresses one problem with the 834s:

During the first two weeks of October, the new federal analysis estimates, nearly 10 percent of enrollments were missing an 834 transmission. That number rose to 15 percent in mid-October before steadily declining through November.

From late November into early December, CMS estimates that less than 1 percent of sign-ups failed to send a record to the health insurer, indicating that a suite of software fixes have helped address the problem.

The missing enrollment files are one of three problems with the 834 transmissions that the federal government has identified. The other two are enrollment transmissions being sent in duplicate and those that are sent with inaccurate, or missing, data.

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It’s best to assume going forward that basically all the enrollment numbers are just outright lies. The strategy seems to have been to just declare everything “fixed” after a certain amount of time passed, while working in the background to get everything fixed “for real.”

Hopefully the Republicans will actually talk about this instead of letting the Democrats continue lying to the public. But I’m not going to hold my breath given how many of them like Obamacare or have otherwise been cowed into silence.

Doomberg on December 16, 2013 at 11:05 AM

These same people control nuclear weapons, vast police agencies, and massive budgets.

Yeah, putting the retards in control was a bad, bad idea.

Bishop on December 16, 2013 at 11:07 AM

No matter obamacare is going to work you idiots
-mika and riech

cmsinaz on December 16, 2013 at 11:14 AM

Yeah, Obamacare was really ready to go live on October 1st.

No wonder nobody is madder than Obama.

Happy Nomad on December 16, 2013 at 11:15 AM

No matter obamacare is going to work you idiots
-mika and riech

cmsinaz on December 16, 2013 at 11:14 AM

Yeah, the only problem with Obamacare is the website.

I wonder what they’re going to do when people start losing their doctors and meds.

Happy Nomad on December 16, 2013 at 11:17 AM

I’m confused, is Obamacare a beta test site? Because image if this was real life.

Oil Can on December 16, 2013 at 11:17 AM

These same people control nuclear weapons, vast police agencies, and massive budgets.

Yeah, putting the retards in control was a bad, bad idea.

Bishop on December 16, 2013 at 11:07 AM

What else can one say?

FOWG1 on December 16, 2013 at 11:20 AM

HN….it will popcorn worthy when this explodes in their faces

cmsinaz on December 16, 2013 at 11:25 AM

But is that the extent of the failures?

Sure it is. This is like a teenager telling his parents he had 1 beer when his parents smell alcohol on his breath.

forest on December 16, 2013 at 11:27 AM

I’d like to apologize to drunk teenagers. Comparing you the the Obama Administration was a low blow.

forest on December 16, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Hey! It’s only health care insurance. Not as if people’s lives might depend on it. So what’s a ‘few’ errors amongst friends. King Barack the Magnificent will wave his magic pen and all the problems will be postponed until January 2017.

GarandFan on December 16, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Sure it is. This is like a teenager telling his parents he had 1 beer when his parents smell alcohol on his breath.

forest on December 16, 2013 at 11:27 AM

On October 1st, HHS and the White House had to have known that the website for the federal exchange consisted of front page with a leering alien, an enrollment page with a couple of Asians, and absolutely no way of transmitting data to insurers.

They had two options. Delay the rollout or bluff. They decided to bluff and it was a full three weeks of “glitches” before they admitted that, “well Obamacare may not be quite as ready for primetime as we throught.” They continue to bluff their way through but the truth is getting harder and harder to hide. And the biggest problems with Obamacare have nothing to do with the website.

Happy Nomad on December 16, 2013 at 11:36 AM

The missing enrollment files are one of three problems with the 834 transmissions that the federal government has identified. The other two are enrollment transmissions being sent in duplicate and those that are sent with inaccurate, or missing, data.

As Jazz pointed out in a different post, some of the “inaccurate” 834 forms show children paying the premiums for their parents, and some situations where the website sent duplicate forms for the same policy-holder, who might end up being billed for the same spouse or child twice.

In the former case, if a child is billed for health insurance for his/her parents, banks might not process payments in a child’s name, and the parents may unwittingly find themselves without insurance even if they made arrangements for an automatic payment.

Steve Z on December 16, 2013 at 11:41 AM

HN….it will popcorn worthy when this explodes in their faces

cmsinaz on December 16, 2013 at 11:25 AM

We haven’t heard much about the talking point that Obamacare provides more choice for the individual lately. I wonder what happens when Californians find out that the state only has one OB-GYN willing to take Obamacare. I wonder what happens when an individual who spent years finding just the right drugs for their medical condition is told that the medication is no longer covered by their insurance. I wonder what happens when communities start losing their volunteer fire departments.

In short, Sebelius and the rat-eared wonder think they’ve turned the corner and managed to pull off the bluff they have been engaged in for nearly three months. But the fun is just beginning because they cannot bluff their way through the realities of Obamacare even if they can lie their asses off about the stinking website.

Happy Nomad on December 16, 2013 at 11:41 AM

I’d like to apologize to drunk teenagers. Comparing you the the Obama Administration was a low blow.

forest on December 16, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Except the drunk teenager who killed four people while driving. He deserves time in jail, not rehab.

Steve Z on December 16, 2013 at 11:43 AM

In the former case, if a child is billed for health insurance for his/her parents, banks might not process payments in a child’s name, and the parents may unwittingly find themselves without insurance even if they made arrangements for an automatic payment.

Steve Z on December 16, 2013 at 11:41 AM

And how many beagles are now covered by Obamacare even if their masters are not?

Happy Nomad on December 16, 2013 at 11:43 AM

The website changed my gender to a female, guess I have to vote Democrat now.

hillsoftx on December 16, 2013 at 11:49 AM

Somehow, I blame this on Republican obstructionism.
After all: Dear Leader and Cruella Sibelius will; why not just spare them the effort?

orangemtl on December 16, 2013 at 11:50 AM

In short, Sebelius and the rat-eared wonder think they’ve turned the corner and managed to pull off the bluff they have been engaged in for nearly three months. But the fun is just beginning because they cannot bluff their way through the realities of Obamacare even if they can lie their asses off about the stinking website.

Happy Nomad on December 16, 2013 at 11:41 AM

indeed

cmsinaz on December 16, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Categorically true.

My hometown – Springfield, MA – has been run locally (and represented nationally) by Democrats for generations. It was the subject of a profile by 60 Minutes last year featuring a MA State Trooper who, having returned from active duty in Afghanistan, was helping local police incorporate anti-insurgency methods to combat he gangs/crime/drugs problem. It IS a war zone and a once flourishing downtown is rife with crime, check cashing stores and cheesy retail shops. But not to worry — they’re betting (pun intended) on dropping a new CASINO in downtown… that will fix everything. /s

dpduq on December 16, 2013 at 12:02 PM

The website changed my gender to a female, guess I have to vote Democrat now.

hillsoftx on December 16, 2013 at 11:49 AM

So you’re saying Obamacare covers sex changes? Of course, that’s a government-style sex change where they just “deem” you to be a different sex. They don’t actually give you working parts any more than they give their websites working parts.

CJ on December 16, 2013 at 1:11 PM