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Report: Obamacare Website Sending Insurers Wrong Data

"It takes an automated process and turns it into a manual process."

Healthcare.gov serves as the healthcare exchange for 36 states with 14 other states running their own. (AP/HHS)

While Obamacare's online enrollment system has been riddled with problems and glitches on the front end, it appears the data being transferred to insurers has problems as well.

Unlike the front end issues though that might be easier to fix, the Wall Street Journal's Christopher Weaver said the data problems, which include listing children as spouses and wrong eligibility determinations, could be "longer lived."

obamacare website wrong data The federal healthcare exchange is reportedly sending insurers wrong data, causing them more time to manually update and make sure customer information is correct. (Image source: WSJ video screenshot)

This is because insurers would have to manually fix or cross check information, negating one of the purported benefits of a more centralized and automatic system.

Here's some of what the WSJ's full article reported, detailing specific issues that were experienced on the insurers' end (emphasis added):

Scott & White Health Plan in Temple, Texas, has received 25 enrollees from the federally run exchange so far. "There are some missing data elements that are requiring a lot of research on our part," said Allan Einboden, the health plan's chief executive. "If we'd received 5,000 and they all had to be worked, that's a lot of extra administrative costs," said Mr. Einboden, who said he expects the problems to be fixed.

After realizing that some applications listed up to three spouses in a single family, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska, which has about 50 health-law enrollees, had to "stop those enrollments from going through the automated process," said Matt Leonard, the insurer's sales manager. "It takes an automated process and turns it into a manual process," he said.

At Priority Health in Michigan, health-plan staff are calling new customers to confirm each of their "couple of dozen" enrollees accurately picked the plan, said Joan Budden, chief marketing officer, after realizing some had enrolled in multiple health plans, likely owing to user error linked to slow healthcare.gov response times. "Sometimes they pushed the [submit] button three times," Ms. Budden said.

Sioux Falls, S.D.,-based Avera Health Plans has called each of its 21 incoming customers to make sure the data are correct. As consumers struggle to navigate healthcare.gov, some health-plan executives worry that only the sickest—those who most expect to need insurance—will persist in seeking coverage. If younger consumers who are on the fence about buying coverage find the process too onerous, insurers may end up with too few healthier members to offset the costs of less-healthy enrollees.

Watch WSJ's video report about the data problems:

Weaver said some insurance companies are also recommending people just hold off on trying to sign up for a little bit until more of the issues are fixed. But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been encouraging people to keep trying.

A memo obtained by the Associated Press found officials estimated 494,620 people would sign up for health insurance under the program by Oct. 31 and 3.3 million nationally by Dec. 31.

Healthcare.gov serves as the healthcare exchange for 36 states with 14 other states running their own. (AP/HHS)

But with all the issues and no hard numbers being released by the administration, some question whether that goal will be reached.

The Obama administration has promised enrollment numbers by the middle of next month for the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead in running the markets.

The 14 states running their own markets, along with Washington, D.C., have released some data. But it's hard to discern a clear pattern, since the reporting dates are different from state to state.

  • California reported 16,300 applications processed as of Oct. 5. The memo projects 91,000 people will enroll in the state by the end of the month.
  • Kentucky reported 18,351 applications processed as of Oct. 9. That would exceed the memo's projection of 15,400 for the month.
  • Washington state reported 24,949 applications processed as of Monday, a little more than the memo's October projection of 23,800.
  • Maryland reported 566 applications processed as of Oct. 6, compared with 10,500 projected for the month by the memo.

Read the Wall Street Journals' full article for more details about the data issues being seen by insurers with this automated process.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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