Insurance Companies Seek Antidote for Healthcare.gov

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Insurance companies are reportedly looking for a way to circumvent the technical issues presented by Healthcare.gov, seeking a way to enroll those who are entitled to a subsidy without a governmental middleman. The New York Times spoke with people in the insurance industry, and President Obama’s administration in compiling information on the proposed fixes.

One White House official said that ways for insurance companies to manage enrollments directly was always on the table, but given the website’s glitches, such ideas are “of additional value now.” Senior health care adviser Christopher Jennings issued a statement saying those involved were “continuing to pursue additional avenues by which people can enroll, such as direct enrollment through insurance companies that will help meet pent-up demand.” Other officials say that such plans had previously been rejected because the administration was wary of giving the insurance companies access to private information.

On Monday, chief project manager for Healthcare.gov, Henry Chao, testified at a closed door session with the House Oversight Committee. CBS obtained access to an advance transcript of part of Chao’s testimony. Chao claims he was never made aware of a memo that warned of risks for Healthcare.gov’s security. The memo said ”the threat and risk potential is limitless.” Chao’s response was, “[what] I recall is what the team told me, is that there were no high findings.”

Other fixes the New York Times reports are possible include allowing people to enroll without filling out the paperwork, having people work with the insurance companies to estimate their expected subsidies, and lengthening the amount of time available for people to sign up. Each has some degree of dissatisfaction for the insurance industry.

Insurers are worried about estimating a subsidy beyond what the federal government would estimate, and they are also concerned that if the deadline is extended, young, healthy people will wait even longer to sign up.

The administration is expected to state how many have obtained health care since the October 1 launch sometime this week. Information published in the Wall Street Journal says the number if far below expected, 40,000 to 50,000. The government had set a target of 500,000 people. One health care insurance executive told the New York Times “there are potential work-arounds,” for the problems presented by the website and enrollment. The November 30 deadline for having the website fixed is rapidly approaching. Jeffrey Zients is in charge fixing the Healthcare.gov issues.

“We are making progress across those priority items, and the site is getting better each week, and will be at the standard that we set for the end of the month,” Zients said. It is essential the website be fully operational so people, particularly healthy individuals, can sign up for coverage.

David Cutler, a Harvard Professor who helped develop the Affordable Care Act, told Megyn Kelly on Fox News Monday that, “If the numbers aren’t there, then the premiums in the exchanges will be very high because the people who will go through the most hoops to get coverage are those for whom the costs are highest and the existing coverage is the worst.”

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