It’s like the Denver Broncos of government programs.
Tens of thousands of people who discovered that HealthCare.gov made mistakes as they were signing up for a health plan are confronting a new roadblock: The government cannot yet fix the errors.
Roughly 22,000 Americans have filed appeals with the government to try to get mistakes corrected, according to internal government data obtained by The Washington Post. They contend that the computer system for the new federal online marketplace charged them too much for health insurance, steered them into the wrong insurance program or denied them coverage entirely.
For now, the appeals are sitting, untouched, inside a government computer. And an unknown number of consumers who are trying to get help through less formal means — by calling the health-care marketplace directly — are told that HealthCare.gov’s computer system is not yet allowing federal workers to go into enrollment records and change them, according to individuals inside and outside the government who are familiar with the situation.
“It is definitely frustrating and not fair,” said Addie Wilson, 27, who lives in Fairmont, W.Va., and earns $22,000 a year working with at-risk families. She said that she is paying $100 a month more than she should for her insurance and that her deductible is $4,000 too high.
Other than that, things are just great.
When Wilson logged on to HealthCare.gov in late December, she needed coverage right away. Her old insurance was ending, and she was to have gallbladder surgery in January. But the Web site would not calculate the federal subsidy to which she knew she was entitled. Terrified to go without coverage, Wilson phoned a federal call center and took the advice she was given: Pay the full price now and appeal later.
Now she is stuck.
“I hope,” she said, “they really work on getting this fixed.”
The Obama administration has not made public the fact that the appeals system for the online marketplace is not working. In recent weeks, legal advocates have been pressing administration officials, pointing out that rules for the online marketplace, created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, guarantee due-process rights to timely hearings for Americans who think they have been improperly denied insurance or subsidies.
It’s almost as if they’re trying to conceal their incompetence.
Three knowledgeable individuals, speaking on the condition of anonymity about internal discussions, said it is unclear when the appeals process will become available. So far, it is not among the top priorities for completing parts of the federal insurance exchange’s computer system that still do not work. Those include an electronic payment system for insurers, the computerized exchange of enrollment information with state Medicaid programs, and the ability to adjust people’s coverage to accommodate new babies and other major changes in life circumstance.
It would be great if there was a way to undo this mess.