Insurers warn of problems with Obamacare enrollment

Insurers warn of problems with Obamacare enrollment

Insurers warn of problems with Obamacare enrollment

A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the website in New York. REUTERS photo

U.S. insurers fear that a surge in enrollments on the revamped government-run healthcare website could create more problems for insurance companies already struggling with error-filled applications for coverage three weeks before a sign-up deadline.

In what could become the next major headache for President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy, a group representing leading U.S. insurers said on Dec. 3 that technology fixes that will enable millions of people to sign on to have not fully addressed faulty data that the site has been sending these companies about their new enrollees.

The problems include enrollment forms with erroneous personal information and duplicate or missing applications. In some cases, consumers who believe they have signed up may not have a file with the insurer.

The warning coincided with an effort by Obama to win back support for the healthcare overhaul after the website’s disastrous Oct. 1 debut sent his job approval ratings plummeting and threatened to damage fellow Democrats in next year’s congressional elections.

The website, which allows consumers to shop for insurance policies, is a main component of the 2010 Affordable Care Act aimed at providing health benefits to millions of uninsured Americans. 

Daniel Durham, a vice president for policy and regulatory affairs at America’s Health Insurance Plans, a lobby group for health insurers, said companies were regularly receiving faulty enrollment forms. He did not give details on how frequently the errors were appearing.

“So far we’ve been able to deal with these issues because there’s been relatively low volume,” Durham said. “But now that the floodgates are open at the front end... we’re going to see a lot more volume. And health plans just don’t have the personnel to do all this manually.”

Durham said insurers need “clean” enrollment files so they can be processed by the Dec. 23 deadline for coverage to start on Jan. 1. 
‘This law is working’

The White House said that more than a million people had visited on Dec. 2, the first day after major technical repairs to the website. It did not say how many people had completed applications and enrolled in new plans.

The botched rollout of Obamacare has hurt the popularity of the initiative. Opposition to the healthcare law stood at 59 percent in a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in mid-November.

Obama encouraged Americans to look beyond the website and recognize the benefits of the law known as Obamacare. “The bottom line is this law is working and will work into the future. People want the financial stability of health insurance,” Obama said in a speech. 

While Obama and his aides have been focusing on fixing the most visible problems with the website, insurers say that serious technical issues are still plaguing the so-called “back end” of the portal that transmits important user information to insurance companies. 

“It’s a real problem for plans when the enrollment file never comes over, and then you get the consumer calling, and the plan has no record of that individual,” Durham said at a forum organized by Georgetown University and law firm Arent Fox.