There is now the matter of whether the millions of people kicked off their plans will be able to sign up for new coverage in time, raising the possibility that “the number of uninsured Americans actually goes up.” It’s being called a “worst-case scenario,” and it’s sure to be a prime topic of discussion when Health Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appears before an Energy Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday.
One big hurdle right now is the government website’s “back-end” – a word you’ll be hearing a lot in the coming days and weeks. The back-end is essentially the make-or-break part of the site where your application should be submitted to the insurance company so it can be processed and you can be covered. As it turns out, however, about one in four applications have run into errors – and “some applications aren’t getting through, so insurers don’t know to follow up with these folks.”
As a result, according to Bloomberg, “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.” That’s pretty scary in and of itself, but as the AP notes, “consumers who think they’ve signed up for a health plan may find themselves unable to access their coverage come January.” Even if you do end up enrolled in a plan, it may well be the wrong one, warns one health care expert:
“‘You could get a bad plan or incorrect plan, a plan other than the plan you picked, a plan where the premium was wrong,’ said Tim Jost, a professor of law at Washington and Lee University. ‘You could end up with a plan that didn’t cover all the members of your family.’” (The Fiscal Times)
Alarm bells are already going off in Minnesota, which is having problems similar to those on the federal exchange:
“‘At this late date, the health plan companies do not have most of the names or information on individuals who have enrolled through MNsure,’ Julie Brunner, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans wrote… At first, people were able to submit multiple applications. That means the insurers have multiple enrollment documents for the same individual. … Some child-only policies list dependents. Other enrollment documents omit vital information.” (MPR News)
Clearly, these are no mere bugs. Even if a Christmas miracle occurs and all this gets sorted out, the back-end problems don’t end there. The website also needs to be able to transfer “billions of dollars in subsidies” to insurance companies – a function that hasn’t even been completed yet. As a result, the administration now says it will allow insurance companies to estimate how much they need, and that’s what will be paid out – a workaround Speaker Boehner addressed on Thursday
“The White House is going to give taxpayer dollars to the insurance companies and hand out these subsidies under a so-called ‘honor system.’ So, they’re essentially telling taxpayers: ‘just trust us. You won’t lose a dime.’ I don’t know why any American would trust this government after all the broken promises they’ve already seen in ObamaCare.”
Here’s hoping Secretary Sebelius can provide the American people with some answers on Wednesday.