A watchdog for the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that government officials were unable to verify the citizenship and income levels of millions of people late last year when they were signing up for healthcare coverage under Obamacare.
HHS's Office of Inspector General released a report saying there were 2.9 million pieces of data that proved difficult to resolve, and that the federal Obamacare exchange was only able to resolve about 300,000 of these problems.
Sylvia Burwell oversees the implementation of Obamacare, which is still struggling to verify the eligibility of applicants for health coverage and insurance subsidies. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
That left 2.6 million "inconsistencies" that could not be figured out, most of which dealt with whether the applicant was a citizen or lawfully present in the United States, and whether their income qualified them for healthcare subsidies.
"The federal marketplace was generally incapable of resolving most inconsistencies," the OIG report said. "Without the ability to resolve inconsistencies in an applicant's eligibility data, the marketplace cannot ensure that an applicant meets each of the eligibility requirements for enrollment in a QHP [qualified health plan] and when applicable, eligibility for insurance affordability programs.
"Additionally, because of the Federal marketplace’s inability to resolve most inconsistencies, we were unable to determine the number of applicants who may have exceeded the 90-day inconsistency period or for whom the inconsistency period was extended by the federal marketplace because the applicant demonstrated a good-faith effort in obtaining satisfactory documentation."
The report comes after Republicans have argued for months that Obamacare was not properly set up to ensure officials can verify the eligibility of applicants for health insurance subsidies. Back in May, the Washington Post reported that more than 1 million people might be getting the wrong level of insurance subsidies because there is no way to verify the income of these applicants.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reacted to the report by saying it's another example of a broken promise by the Obama administration to ensure the effective implementation of the law.
"From today's reports, it appears that then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius provided a misleading certification to Congress earlier this year that the Obamacare exchanges could and would verify that individuals receiving tax credits and cost-sharing assistance are actually eligible to receive these taxpayer-provided subsidies," he said Tuesday.
"This report is one more example of just how flawed the President's health care law is," he added.
Late last year, the House voted to stop Obamacare insurance subsidies from being paid out until an income verification system could be put in place. But that bill has not moved in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The OIG report said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is working on a system to verify eligibility under Obamacare, but said that is not yet "fully operational." That means resolving these inconsistencies will have to wait, but the report does not say when CMS's system will be working.
"The Federal marketplace reported that it will verify those applicants with inconsistencies when CMS’s eligibility system is operational," the report said.
OIG released a separate report Tuesday that said there's evidence the federal Obamacare system does not have adequate controls in place to verify people's Social Security number when they apply. That report said in a sample of just 45 people, there was one case in which a Social Security number was not validated, and another case when a number wasn't provided by the applicant.
That report found that the California healthcare exchange had seven cases in which it did not verify the citizenship of an applicant, and one case where officials didn't validate the lawful presence of an applicant.
It also found an example of the California exchange low-balling the income of an applicant, which raises the chances that the applicant can receive insurance subsidies.