CMS tech officer: Roughly 30-40% of the ObamaCare exchange system still needs to be built ‚ÄĒ including the payment system
Skip to 3:15 for the key bit. We‚Äôre 50 days removed from launch and Chao‚Äôs spent hours upon hours testifying about the website before Congress over the last few weeks. And somehow only now are we hearing about this.
It‚Äôs not just enrollees and insurers who are having trouble with payment either:
Add insurance brokers to the list of people stymied by HealthCare.gov‚Ä¶
Brokers say their clients are having trouble entering the right ID numbers in the balky website ‚ÄĒ and that‚Äôs what‚Äôs needed for the health plan to pay them‚Ä¶
In the chaotic days after the rollout of HealthCare.gov, many brokers were told by call center operators that they could not, or would not, enter a broker‚Äôs identification, or the ‚Äúnational producer number.‚ÄĚ In other cases, the numbers seemed to be recorded ‚ÄĒ but then they got caught up in the problems with the corrupted ‚Äú834‚ÄĚ files that the exchanges send to the health plans with enrollment information.
Here‚Äôs the other part of this. One of the key points that O-Care critic Bob Laszewski has stressed all along is that the front end of Healthcare.gov shouldn‚Äôt be fixed until the back end is. The back end is where an applicant‚Äôs information, including payment information presumably, is transmitted to the insurer he signed up with. Because of the ‚Äú834‚Ä≥ problem mentioned in the excerpt above, much of the info received thus far by insurance companies from the federal website is garbled or incomplete. That problem is manageable, says Laszewski, as long as the number of enrollments is low; if there‚Äôs only a trickle of bad data flowing in, insurers may have the time and manpower needed to correct it piecemeal. If, however, the front end of the website is fixed and enrollments pick up precipitously, the trickle turns into a flood and suddenly insurance companies are overwhelmed with garbled data. Listening to Chao here, it sounds like CMS is setting itself up for precisely that problem ‚ÄĒ they‚Äôre desperate to finish the front end first in order to get ‚Äúyoung healthies‚ÄĚ on the rolls ASAP, but they haven‚Äôt even begun to build part of the back end of the site. How bad, exactly, are things on that back end right now? What happens if the White House convinces hundreds of thousands of people to sign up before December 15 and then their new coverage isn‚Äôt there for them on January 1 because of a catastrophic breakdown on the non-public part of the site? Even if the coverage is there, what about the payment of subsidies that lower income people are relying on to make their coverage affordage?