U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, the senior Republican on the Senate Health Committee and the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee called on the Obama administration to provide details on the technical problems that have prevented many Americans from enrolling in the federal government’s health insurance exchange.
Alexander was also joined by U.S. Representative Darrell Issa, who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Together they sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius requesting information “to help us evaluate the extent of the problems with ObamaCare’s rollout and for us to better determine whether any corrective legislative actions are necessary.” They also asked if individuals will still suffer tax penalties for not purchasing insurance.
“HHS launched healthcare.gov on Oct. 1, 2013, as required by law,” they wrote. “From day one, however, healthcare.gov has been plagued by what Administration officials initially referred to as technical glitches. After six days the Administration finally admitted the glitches were ‘design and software problems that have kept customers from applying online for coverage. News reports detailed stories of people waiting as long as 36 hours to enroll for insurance, many waiting for hours only to give up. As many as 99 of every 100 applications are not able to be processed, and experts are concerned that ‘federal officials could face a situation in January in which relatively large numbers of people believe they have coverage starting that month, but whose enrollment applications have not been processed.”
Alexander and Issa ask for information including how many people have successfully enrolled in the exchange; details on all technical problems preventing enrollment and the anticipated cost of fixing those problems; whether HHS decided to go live with healthcare.gov knowing there were problems with transmitting data to insurers; and whether individuals who attempted to enroll in insurance through the federal exchange but who were ultimately unsuccessful due to the system’s failures still face a tax penalty if they do not enroll for 2014.
“According to some reports,” they wrote, “the Administration was repeatedly warned that the federal exchange had significant problems. Insurers complained that during tests of the exchange there were difficulties with transmissions to insurers, with insurers not receiving all necessary data about individuals enrolling in plans during tests. Did HHS go live with healthcare.gov knowing there were problems with transmitting data to insurers? If those problems were resolved during testing, how were they resolved?”
In a separate statement Alexander also commented on six things that can be expected when Americans do log-in to the digital health care exchange. They were higher premiums, higher deductibles, higher co-pays, coverage you don’t need, fewer choices, and less competition.
“These will be tough and disappointing days for many Americans, as they finally log on to the exchanges and discover that health insurance next year will cost multiple times what it costs them now,” Alexander said. “This will be a difficult time for other Americans, too, who will find they cannot keep the plans they had, as the president promised, or will pay much more. This is why we’ve been working so hard to dismantle and repeal this bill, so that we can begin to pass step-by-step reforms that transform the health care delivery system by putting patients in charge, giving them more choices, and reducing the cost of health care so that more people can afford it.”