recommended reading

Obamacare Reaches Critical Enrollment Deadline

HealthCare.Gov

Monday is a big day for Obamacare: It's the deadline to sign up for health insurance that begins Jan. 1.

There are still another three months to buy coverage, but a lot of people need it on Jan. 1. It's an important deadline for people with pre-existing conditions who had been priced out or overtly locked out of the individual insurance market and are now eager to get covered. And it's an important deadline for the millions of people whose insurance policies were canceled because of the Affordable Care Act.

Both groups were largely unable to shop for new plans in October and most of November, when HealthCare.gov was mired in technological problems. The White House has reported an enrollment surge in December, ahead of the deadline to sign up in time for Jan. 1 -- the earliest possible start date for plans sold through the law's insurance exchanges.

The law's critics have raised the possibility that because of plan cancellations and the broken website, more people will have lost coverage on Jan. 1 than gained it.

Whether that has happened is probably unknowable -- no one has a reliable estimate of how many plans were canceled. The White House says only about 500,000 people had their plans canceled and are now without coverage, while Republicans have put the total number of plan cancellations well into the millions.

The end of December also marks the halfway point in the six-month window to sign up for coverage through the exchanges. Given the website's disastrous launch, the administration will surely fall well short of its pre-launch expectations. The Health and Human Services Department had estimated that 3.3 million people would sign up for private insurance by the end of the year. It was 3 million people short of that mark at the end of November.

We won't know until January how many people signed up in December. It probably won't be 3 million, but administration officials say they've seen a surge with the website repaired and the Dec. 23 deadline looming. The first two days of December alone saw roughly 29,000 enrollments -- more than the entire month of October.

HHS has beefed up capacity over the past few weeks to handle the anticipated last-minute rush. Administration officials said they have added roughly 800 new representatives to Obamacare's call centers, bringing them up to about 12,000 trained agents. HealthCare.gov, the enrollment portal serving 36 states, has mostly been stable since Dec. 1, when the administration declared success in its push to have the site working "for the vast majority of users."

Administration officials said they might have to deploy the website's new queuing feature today, if the number of people trying to beat the deadline is more than the site can handle at one time. The system allows users to enter their e-mail addresses and notifies them when traffic subsidies.

In a briefing with reporters last week, administration officials said it was possible that users who tried to sign up today would be queued until tomorrow -- meaning they would technically miss the Dec. 23 deadline. They said they were working on a plan to ensure that those people would still be able to have their coverage begin on Jan. 1, since it wouldn't be their fault they missed the deadline.

The Dec. 23 cutoff leaves insurance companies with little time to process enrollments, and things will undoubtedly be messy as people try to use their new coverage.

Problems with HealthCare.gov's transmissions to insurance companies could result in people not having the coverage they thought they had purchased. And consumers technically aren't enrolled until they pay their first month's premium. At the administration's urging, insurers have agreed to give consumers until Jan. 10 to make that payment and still have their coverage begin, retroactively, on Jan. 1.

A senior administration official noted last week that confusion about insurance coverage existed before Obamacare -- people sometimes have to call and argue with their insurance company when they try to fill a certain prescription, for example. Still, the official said HHS will be monitoring those issues as coverage kicks in and will attempt to respond quickly to gaps caused by the enrollment process.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.