One-third of the people who’ve chosen health-care plans on the federal health-insurance exchange have, unbeknownst to them, had something gone wrong with their enrollment, according to the Washington Post. Their errors with these “834 reports,” the information transmitted to insurers once people pick plans, “include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies.”
Insurers have been complaining since the site launched about these problems. If they go unresolved, it’s a big problem for consumers, too: Insurance companies won’t be able to mail them bills for their new plans, and unless they’ve paid by January 1, they won’t have coverage starting that day (when many pre-Obamacare individual-market plans expire).
Some of the errors were user-generated, according to one administration official. On the upside, 149,000 people have enrolled in plans using the system, according to an internal report published on Monday — up from 27,000 enrollments on the federal exchange by the end of October (and compared with something like 4 to 5 million enrollees the White House was expecting from the states using the federal exchange).
The White House takes issue with the assessment of error rates, saying it “doesn’t accurately reflect the picture of what’s happening right now” and assuring the Post, “We’ve got a team of experts already working closely with issuers to make sure that every past and future 834 is accurate. We’re confident they’ll succeed.” A spokesman today said that many of the errors in enrollments were attributed to a few specific bugs, such as one that prevented Social Security numbers from being included when someone enrolled, which has been fixed. One way of fixing existing broken reports involved “reconciliation” of data among insurance carriers and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is running the federal website, but that function doesn’t exist yet.
The White House’s assured reporters this weekend that a top-quality team was working at “private-sector velocity” on fixing the frontend of the site, and had gotten it up to the usability goals they’d set. That meant being able to handle 50,000 visitors at a time, but HHS admitted today that the website was slowing down and rejecting people when it reached just 35,000 users, though it did accept almost 800,000 users on Monday, in line with the White House’s goal for one-day capacity.