"No Way To Tell How Many People Who Have Signed Up For Obamacare Actually Have"

Tyler Durden's picture

The Obamacare enrollment portal is the gift that keeps on giving endless examples of government incompetence. The latest comes from Bloomberg which informs us that "there’s no way to tell how many people who think they’ve signed up for health insurance through the U.S. exchange actually have, after about 1 in 4 enrollments sent to insurers from the federal website had garbled included incomplete information." Still that particular glitch was not enough to prevent Obama from taking full credit for a "fixed" website after somehow the White House managed to calculate that sign ups soared to 100,000 people, and have taken off since the "fix."

More:

[T]he acknowledgment suggests consumers need to be vigilant about their health plan purchases. Letters from insurers confirming coverage can take a week or more, and the Obama administration now says people should call their companies if they aren’t contacted within that time.

 

With repairs to the front end of healthcare.gov leading to a spurt of 29,000 new enrollments in the first two days of December, U.S. officials are now focusing on what happens after customers select a plan on the website. Enrollment isn’t complete until consumers make their first payment, which is due Dec. 31 for insurance coverage that will begin on Jan. 1.

 

It’s time for people to move toward locking in coverage and paying for it,” said Joel Ario, a consultant with Manatt Health Solutions, in a telephone interview. Insurers will face “a tall challenge” trying to resolve enrollment errors as the time shortens before coverage begins Jan. 1, he said.

 

The Centers For Medicaid & Medicare Services, which runs the federal health website, doesn’t have “precise numbers” on how many of the enrollment forms called 834s have been sent to insurers or how many have errors, Julie Bataille, an agency spokeswoman, said during a Dec. 6 conference call.

One aspect where Obamacare is working, is where the government decided to bypass the healthcare.gov 500 million lines of code monstrocity entirely and allow consumers to enroll directly with state insurance companies.

A project the government began two weeks ago with 16 insurance companies in three states -- Texas, Florida and Ohio - - to allow them to enroll people directly into health plans, bypassing healthcare.gov, has improved the working relationship among the government’s technicians and those at the companies, said a person familiar with the work who asked not to be identified because the information is private. The new cooperation has helped to resolve issues with the data transfers, the person said.

Alas, the bulk of the enrollment problems remain when using the central portal:

“In general our 834 files have been pretty good,” said Kathleen Oestreich, CEO of Meritus, a Tempe, Arizona, startup insurer funded by government loans. The company has seen only one “orphan” member, she said -- a person who called and said they hadn’t received an enrollment notice even though they had picked Meritus as their insurer.

 

More troubling are “ghosts” -- people whose files never reach their insurers, Robert Laszewski, an insurance industry consultant, said. It’s unclear how many people may fall into that category or how companies will identify or reach them.

 

“If they enroll 500,000 people and 25,000 of them walk into the doctor’s office and nobody knows who they are, that’s a problem,” he said in a phone interview.

It is indeed. And it is just the start, because while the enrollment process of Obamacare will (one hopes) eventually be fixed, that will merely unleash all new, and far more disturbing problemsn. Such as the deductible sticker shock that is about to be unleashed upon Americans in need of medical aid, especially those who choose the cheaper "bronze" plan. The WSJ reports:

As enrollment picks up on the HealthCare.gov website, many people with modest incomes are encountering a troubling element of the federal health law: deductibles so steep they may not be able to afford the portion of medical expenses that insurance doesn't cover. The average individual deductible for what is called a bronze plan on the exchange—the lowest-priced coverage—is $5,081 a year, according to a new report on insurance offerings in 34 of the 36 states that rely on the federally run online marketplace.

 

That is 42% higher than the average deductible of $3,589 for an individually purchased plan in 2013 before much of the federal law took effect, according to HealthPocket Inc., a company that compares health-insurance plans for consumers. A deductible is the annual amount people must spend on health care before their insurer starts making payments.

 

The health law makes tax credits available to help cover insurance premiums for people with annual income up to four times the poverty level, or $45,960 for an individual. In addition, "cost-sharing" subsidies to help pay deductibles are available to people who earn up to 2.5 times the poverty level, or about $28,725 for an individual, in the exchange's silver policies. As enrollment picks up on HealthCare.gov, many people with modest incomes are encountering a troubling element: deductibles so steep they may not be able to afford the portion of medical expenses that insurance doesn't cover. 

 

But those limits will leave hundreds of thousands or more people with a difficult trade-off: They can pay significantly higher premiums for the exchange's silver, gold and platinum policies, which have lower deductibles, or gamble they won't need much health care and choose a cheaper bronze plan. Moreover, the cost-sharing subsidies for deductibles don't apply to the bronze policies.

 

That means some sick or injured people may avoid treatment so they don't rack up high bills their insurance won't cover, according to consumer activists, insurance brokers and public-policy analysts—subverting one of the health law's goals, which is to ensure more people receive needed health care. Hospitals, meantime, are bracing for a rise in unpaid bills from bronze-plan policyholders, said industry officials and public-policy analysts.

Ah: central planning, also known in the now-defunct USSR as the where "whatever can go wrong, will." As Obama (and soon the Fed) are learning first hand...