It’s bad enough that the central web portal of the ObamaCare system couldn’t handle the private-sector insurer protocol for transmitting enrollment information. The 834 system has been in use for decades, but somehow the geniuses at HHS failed to program the output from Healthcare.gov to match it. It’s quite another when the federal government’s website can’t talk to systems in state governments — for public-assistance programs that have been around a lot longer than the 834s.
More than 100,000 poor people have no coverage now thanks to that “glitch,” reports the Washington Post:
More than 100,000 Americans who applied for insurance through HealthCare.gov and were told they are eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) remain unenrolled because of lingering software defects in the federal online marketplace, according to federal and state health officials.
To try to provide coverage to these people before they seek medical care, the Obama administration has launched a barrage of phone calls in recent days in 21 states, advising those who applied that the quickest route into the programs is to start over at their state’s Medicaid agency.
State officials, meanwhile, are racing to cope in various ways — some enrolling people based on imperfect data files they received from Washington, others mailing letters urging eligible people to contact the state to sign up.
The chaos is likely to prove temporary because of the state and federal efforts that have just begun to help people enroll and because the coverage can be made retroactive to the first of the year.
Still, the fact that some consumers learned on HealthCare.gov that they could join the two programs but are not yet in them is creating a problem for states and confusion for the consumers. The situation also offers a glimpse of the technical problems that persist with the computer system underpinning the new federal online insurance marketplace more than a month after the Obama administration announced it had largely been fixed.
Yes, it does provide a glimpse of the technical problems. On a larger level, though, it provides a glaring example of the incompetence of HHS. One might be able to understand how HHS could get confused on 834s with private-sector insurers, although HHS has spent years coordinating with the same exact insurers as part of the Medicare Advantage program. Medicaid, on the other hand, is a federally-coordinated program that has integrated with state systems for decades.
Now we have a system that promised to cover more of the poor at the expense of millions who lost their insurance — and even the poor are now kicked out into the cold until HHS can figure out what went wrong. HHS says they can make the insurance retroactive, but that won’t help people trying to get health care now. And I’d bet the problem is larger than just the “over 100,000” the Post cites. In Pennsylvania alone, the state Medicaid agency announced on New Year’s Eve that “Thousands of low-income Pennsylvanians who applied through the federal government’s website and were determined eligible or potentially eligible for Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage may find out they were not enrolled as anticipated as of Jan. 1.”
This problem has been known since the rollout began, and even the fixes they have put in place have high failure rates. A transfer of files to New Mexico on Friday had a 19% failure rate. If HHS can’t effectively coordinate Medicaid enrollments in a system they had 42 months to build, even with their own level of expertise in dealing with Medicaid and CHIP integration with state systems, how likely will they be to demonstrate any competence at all in running the health-insurance sector, which will require both state- and federal-level coordination?
Not likely. Not likely at all.