As anyone could have predicted, the deadline for ObamaCare enrollment has prompted a surge in traffic to Healthcare.gov and state exchange websites. Mandate compliance will tend to focus attention, especially when the IRS could end up breathing down your neck for non-compliance. CBS News reports that record numbers of people signed up for insurance on the exchanges over the past week, but no one’s really sure if they actually will have insurance after January 1:
CBS calls these “enrollments,” but that’s actually the question. As CBS notes, insurers aren’t sure that the sign-ups will equate to actual enrollments for a number of reasons. Two of those reasons don’t get a mention in the report. First, the federal exchange and perhaps some of the state exchanges still have issues with their 834s, the electronic report that transmits enrollment data to insurers. The failure rate, by the administration’s own admission, is at least 10%. If the insurers don’t get the proper data, then they can’t enroll the customers. Second, the back-end subsidy payment system isn’t even in place, although the Obama administration’s workaround will be to have the insurers bill CMS for subsidy payments and to issue them without confirmation for a while. If enrollment data gets confused, customers might find their insurance cancelled even if they have been making their partial payments — unless insurers really want to go out on a limb and into the red on provider payments with short revenue.
Another curiosity is the level of sign-ups that CBS and ObamaCare exchanges offer as success. California signed up 100,000 people in a week? It’s a state of over 30 million people. The total only came to 400,000 before the deadline, or about 1.3% of the population, and that number included Medicaid enrollments:
California’s health insurance exchange said more than 400,000 people have signed up for health plans ahead of Monday’s enrollment deadline as part of the Affordable Care Act.
The Covered California exchange said the latest figures are based on preliminary data through Sunday, when about 27,000 people picked an insurance company. Enrollment Friday was even higher, at 29,000 people, according to the exchange.
“We very much expect today will be a big day,” Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said Monday. “We are seeing huge interest online.”
The state’s latest official figures were 156,000 enrolled in health plans through Dec. 7, and an additional 179,000 people who had qualified for an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.
State officials declined to give an updated enrollment figure for Medi-Cal.
And according to the Sacramento Bee yesterday, many of those people who did sign up for private insurance can’t verify enrollment — even those who signed up right away rather than wait for the last minute:
Margaret Rhode didn’t procrastinate.
As soon as enrollment for health insurance plans began in October, she was on the Covered California website, seeking coverage for her 52-year-old son. Applying online, however, turned out to be more complicated than she had anticipated.
“I tried to apply online and it wouldn’t let me,” Rhode said, “I was able to connect over the phone and they told me the site was down, try again later.”
Rhode, a Rancho Cordova resident, finally gave up on the website and submitted a paper application in mid-November for a Blue Shield policy for her son.
Since then, silence.
Rhode will get confirmation by mail, if she gets it at all, because she submitted her son’s enrollment on paper. Those with website sign-ups will only get a bill, if the insurers get their information and enroll them properly. They won’t find out whether that happened until the bill comes … or they try to use their insurance and find out they don’t have it.