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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

How Long Does Obama Have to Fix Healthcare.gov?

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“The people who will go back will be precisely the ones who need health insurance because they’ve got ongoing problems,” said Joe Antos, economist at the American Enterprise Institute.

Experts outside the government debate the scope of the problems with little information coming from the Obama administration. What is known is that bugs have made it difficult, if not impossible for consumers to create accounts and have also resulted in insurers getting misinformation about those who do manage to enroll. The troubles have been most severe with the federal website, although a few of the 14 states operating state exchanges are also experiencing serious problems.

If the administration solves the problems before the end of October, “this would just be a blip on the radar,” said Dan Mendelson of consulting firm Avalere Health in Washington.

If problems cannot be resolved that quickly, Mendelson said “there are other options for getting people enrolled,” noting that Medicare beneficiaries signed up for coverage for decades without using computers.

The president also mentioned those options Monday, saying consumers could sign up by telephone, in person with trained assisters or by downloading an application and mailing it in. 

But those options are not ideal, mainly because millions of applications would have to be manually checked across several federal agencies.

“That would take significantly longer than if it was automated,” said Schuyler. “While it’s a fallback, it’s not going to resolve the issue that if Healthcare.gov doesn’t improve in two or three weeks, we’re going to have this backlog of people who are trying to enroll.”

Consumers have until Dec. 15 to enroll for coverage that starts Jan. 1, although the open enrollment period goes to March 31. 

Some analysts suggest that if problems persist into late November or December, that the Obama administration will need to consider extending the open enrollment period.

Such a decision, however, would have political and financial ramifications.

Republicans are already seizing on the troubles as a way to advance their effort to delay or eliminate the law, and may obstruct changes that require congressional approval. 

Mon, Oct 21 2013

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