Administration Official: Healthcare.gov Only 60-70% Finished
CMS Deputy Information Officer Henry Chao told a House of Representatives committee that the dysfunctional Healthcare.gov is 30-40% away from being fully-built. One of the key missing components is the payment system (3:20 mark).
“We still need to build the payments systems to make the payments to insurers in January,” said Chao.
The administration thought it’d be a swell idea to launch a website (touted as being like Amazon.com or Kayak.com) where people can buy health insurance, but not give them a way to pay for it.
UPDATE: While a big chuck of the website still needs to be built, we shouldn’t worry about any security problems:
Chao assurred consumers their information is safe. The federal data hub, which verifies eligibility for the exchange, does not keep information, he said. The website currently features a dedicated security team to monitor progress, undergoes weekly performance testing and receives daily scans. “We’ve gone over and above” to ensure safety, Chao said.
Of course there’s no reason to worry, right?
Some brokers are waiting for the site to be fixed before they deal with clients using it. But those that are sticking with the arduous online enrollment journey are facing a new question: Will I get paid for this?
“It’s almost like they don’t like the insurance agents being involved. That’s what it feels like,” said Kelly Fristoe, a broker from Wichita Falls, Texas.
Brokers say their clients are having trouble entering the right ID numbers in the balky website — and that’s what’s needed for the health plan to pay them.
Agents who have completed training and registration for the federal marketplace can help individuals and small businesses sign up for exchange plans. Federal navigators and in-person assisters are also trained to help. But brokers say they’ve been dealing with insurance for years, and have expertise that lets them walk clients through the complicated new health plan terrain and explain it at a level that will really help people understand the specifics of their options.
Brokers are supposed to be paid by insurance companies once a policy is in place and the first premium payment has been made. Brokers have contracts with the plans on their fees — and there can’t be incentives to move people outside the exchanges.
“If you want our guys to participate in the exchange and help people enroll … you’re talking about a lot of time and resources on their part, which they’re happy to do provided that they’re compensated for their work,” said Diane Boyle, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
But those brokers’ identification information is slipping through the HealthCare.gov cracks.
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’s identification, or the “national producer number.” In other cases, the numbers seemed to be recorded — but then they got caught up in the problems with the corrupted “834” files that the exchanges send to the health plans with enrollment information.
Boyle and other broker advocates were told Nov. 8 by the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight that call center operators had been notified of the mistake and instructed to accept brokers’ numbers. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has urged the call center assistants to record a broker’s identification number during three-way calls with agents and their clients and has encouraged agents to notify the agency if they still encounter problems.
Still, brokers say problems persist. Just last week, Fristoe was helping a client of four years sign up for an exchange plan when a call center operator told him that she could not enter his number. After being unable to resolve the problem on the phone, he and the customer gave up on the Web enrollment and switched to paper.