The Department of Health and Human Services released health insurance enrollment statistics Wednesday, and while numbers have increased, they still fall far short of original projections for the end of November.
From the Associated Press, Health care signups pick up but may not close gap:
With time running short, the nation’s health care rolls still aren’t filling up fast enough.New signup numbers Wednesday showed progress for President Barack Obama’s health care law, but not enough to guarantee that Americans who want and need coverage by Jan. 1 will be able to get it. Crunch time is now, as people face a Dec. 23 deadline to sign up if they are to have coverage by New Year’s.
That means more trouble for the White House, too, after months of repairing a dysfunctional enrollment website. Next year could start with a new round of political recriminations over the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare” to its opponents.
The Health and Human Services Department reported that 364,682 people had signed up for private coverage under the law as of Nov. 30. That is more than three times the October figure, but still less than one-third of the 1.2 million that officials had projected would enroll nationwide by the end of November. The administration’s overall goal was to sign up 7 million people by next March 31, when open enrollment ends.
What remains an issue is how many of those who have signed up for coverage have actually made a payment.
The newest HHS signup numbers didn’t include how many people have actually paid their first month’s premiums, the last crucial step before completing enrollment.
“Our concern is that 364,000 number is fraudulent because it’s not those who have purchased plans yet,” said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) during the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing.
The administration won’t know until early next year how many people completed enrollment, Sebelius said, because Dec. 31 is the deadline to pay for coverage starting January. “Some may have paid, some may have not,” she said, noting that payments are made directly to insurers and not HHS.
Also a sticking point remains the issue of so-called “834 errors,” in which some insurers are still experiencing instances of files that contain data that is incorrect or aren’t receiving files at all. While those errors have decreased with improvements to the healthcare.gov website, officials indicated last week that about 10 percent still contain errors.
In a blog post on Wednesday, Sebelius announced that she has taken “a series of initial steps in the process of better understanding the structural and managerial policies that led to the flawed launch of HealthCare.gov.”
Among those steps is the HHS Secretary’s request to the agency’s inspector general to review the development of healthcare.gov, which appears to be primarily focused on the work of the contractors on the project, overall project management and on the contractor selection process.