The Obama administration promised a fully operational health insurance marketplace by the end of November. More than the promise, it was necessary for the government to deliver a sustainable insurance exchange that can stand the deluge of Americans just waiting to pounce on it for enrolling before December 23, the extended deadline for signing up for insurance that kicks in on January 1, 2014.
The Good News – Week #7
Let’s start with the improvements made by the website. Since our last update , the healthcare.gov website has considerably improved. It has now fixed major stability issues and is allowing people to get on the system, submit their applications, apply for subsidies, and exit. The newfound smoothness in the site is attracting many more people. According to the available numbers, the enrollments have increased about three times the amount from earlier weeks. Another improvement is in the processing of information, with backroom error rates going down and showing a major improvement. However, that’s all that has been done till now. From a different perspective, this is not that good.
By now, it is very clear that the health insurance marketplaces have had some glitches. To add to the confusion, health payers have started issuing cancellation letters to thousands of Americans whose insurance policies do not comply with the Affordable Care Act, and will expire at the end of the year. This additional issue on the already stumbling healthcare.gov website is making matters worse for the Obama administration.
As the ‘tech surge’ for fixing healthcare.gov goes into full steam, Obama administration has another plan up its sleeve – to allow consumers to stay on their existing plans and get them renewed, even if they don’t fully comply with the Obamacare mandates. These plans can stay active for an additional, giving Obama stalwarts enough room to fix the broken parts fully and get the exchange live without any hassles.
Nearly a month and a half after the health insurance marketplace rollout, the federal exchange is still reeling. The underperforming, broken healthcare.gov site is making life tough for the Obama administration. However, the site is starting to make progress, and the government is committed to delivering an error-free, smooth experience to Americans.
However, in the midst of this chaos and its impact on various demographics, there is a particular group that stands ignored – the self-employed. Among a delayed employee mandate, individual insurance talks, and Medicaid expansion discussion, no one is really paying attention to this major chunk of the national population. Here, we discuss the seven questions, and their answers, which will help self-employed sail through the tumultuous times of Obamacare rollout.
As we go through the fifth week of the Obamacare rollout, not much has changed in the health insurance marketplace sphere. Although healthcare.gov has not substantially improved, minor improvements have trickled in. Enrollments are picking up, but the numbers are still nothing to boast about, especially when compared to the projected numbers given before the marketplaces went live. So, what are the challenges being faced by the administration and healthcare industry, and what are the action points for the government to iron out these challenges? Let’s find out.
The problems surrounding health insurance marketplaces do not seem to be abating. Last week was wrought with more issues, some of which were not wholly unexpected. However, all is not lost for Obamacare yet. There has been some good news as well. Let’s take a look at what has been happening in and around the exchanges, the major challenges that the government has been dealing with, and the pieces of good news that have been trickling in throughout last week.
What’s troubling the Government?
• Healthcare.gov site is riddled with bugs and errors that are affecting enrollments and preventing people from signing up. The situation went way out of control a few weeks ago when on a Sunday night one of the vendors that service the site suffered a major failure. The website was rendered offline, causing the browsing and signing up process to suffer across the nation.
As the administration works toward fixing healthcare.gov, there is another crucial part of the health insurance marketplace enrollments that hasn’t received a lot of attention – navigators. As it was widely expected, navigators have played a large role in helping people enroll. With the system experiencing issues, more people than expected have turned to the navigators for help.
Unfortunately for the navigators, there were some unforeseen issues that are hampering the ability of the navigators to do their job.
After a rough start, healthcare.gov (the Federally Facilitated Marketplace) is beginning to experience a bit of a recovery. Although the launch was plagued with system crashes, non-availability and incorrect subsidy calculations, things are finally starting to look up.
According to the government, millions of enrollments were expected in the initial stages of the health reform rollout. Projections indicated that nearly half a million enrollments were expected within the first 30 days. However, enrollments were a lot lower than the projections. The problem was not limited to the site usability; it was also about the data that was being sent by the system. Several health plans experienced incorrect enrollments, missing information and individuals enrolling in multiple plans. The end result was incorrect data in the system and failed enrollments. On the other hand, the states that opted to run their own exchanges were performing better but still dealing with less than expected enrollments.
While information has been trickling out on the various state exchanges, Missouri has continued to stay quiet right up to the launch. As the state lawmakers, and then voters, voted rejected a state-run exchange, Missouri is among the many states that chose to leave it to the federal government to handle.
While efforts to publicize the exchange have faced strong opposition, there have been some initiatives put in place to help increase the public’s knowledge on the exchange.
• Private organizations and individuals are conducting FAQ and Question & Answer Sessions on the exchange for individuals. For instance, FOX 2 recently aired a Q&A session that consisted of top industry experts and served as a platform for helping people clear their doubts about ACA. This one-hour special helped people learn more about the health reform that is going to impact their lives. Similarly, through the face of private organizations and nonprofit associations, the state will receive the required information.
With the exchange now live, there has been some clarity in the carriers and rates for the Illinois state exchange. Consumers in Cook County will be able to choose plans offered by five carriers – Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Coventry, Health, Humana, Inc. and Land of Lincoln Health.
However, only BCBS and Land of Lincoln are offering both individual and small-group plans throughout the state. BCBS is offering 16 individual plans and 19 small businesses; Land of Lincoln is offering 19 individual and 16 small group plans. Offering the most individual plans – more than 30 different options – is Humana and Coventry.
According to latest reports, the health insurance marketplace of South Dakota will be a costly affair. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has revealed that under the federal exchange, South Dakotans would have to pay more for insurance premiums than people in neighboring states.
The study has based its findings on the facts that have come out of a close analysis of rates that will prevail in South Dakota. For comparison, the report takes into account a family of 4 with a monthly income of $50,000. Analysis reveals that South Dakotans will have to pay $141 per month after subsidies and tax credits. This means that there is a gap of $46 per month as the national average hovers around $95 per month.