New Obamacare nightmare: federally-run exchanges can't quote consumers the correct price
I figured out how to make the insurance exchanges work; put Wiley Coyote in charge.
No doubt, the Roadrunner's nemesis can invent some Rube Goldberg device that fixes all the problems so that it's smooth sailing for consumers when the exchanges open for business on October 1.
Anything has got to be better than this.
Less than two weeks before the launch of insurance marketplaces created by the federal health overhaul, the government's software can't reliably determine how much people need to pay for coverage, according to insurance executives and people familiar with the program.
So not only will your personal information be open to hackers, you are probably going to get an incorrect quote from the government designed, government run computer system.
Government officials and insurers were scrambling to iron out the pricing quirks quickly, according to the people, to avoid alienating the initial wave of consumers.
A failure by consumers to sign up online in the hotly anticipated early days of the "exchanges" is worrisome to insurers, which are counting on enrollees for growth, and to the Obama administration, which made the exchanges a centerpiece of its sweeping health-care legislation.
If not resolved by the Oct. 1 launch date, the problems could affect consumers in 36 states where the federal government is running all or part of the exchanges. About 32 million uninsured people live in those states, but only a fraction of them are expected to sign up in the next year.
The remaining 14 states are running separate marketplaces with their own software. One of those states, Oregon, has already announced that it would delay some features to fix software bugs, though consumers will be able to enroll offline.
How will you know if you're being quoted the correct price? We'll have to get back to you on that.
Four people familiar with the development of the software that determines how much people would pay for subsidized coverage on the federally run exchanges said it was still miscalculating prices. Tests on the calculator initially scheduled to begin months ago only started this week at some insurers, according to insurance executives and two people familiar with development efforts.
"There's a blanket acknowledgment that rates are being calculated incorrectly," said one senior health-insurance executive who asked not to be named. "Our tech and operations people are very concerned about the problems they're seeing and the potential of them to stick around."
Still, the long-term consequences of any malfunctions in registering and pricing may be limited. People may still be able to sign up offline, even if the online exchanges aren't fully functional at first, several insurers said. And consumers have until mid-December to sign up for policies that start on Jan. 1.
The enrollment period continues through next March, and many analysts expect consumers to wait until they can use the coverage before they enroll.
As I've mentioned before, the delay in implementing all this complexity is entirely due to the 2012 presidential election. The Obama administration had three years to get this right and only began in earnest last December. The president did not want news of skyrocketing premiums, malfunctioning software, security vulnerabilities, and other nightmares related to Obamacare coming out the summer and fall before the election. In short, he and the Democrats had been pummeled on the issue of Obamacare in 2010 and he was not going to allow Republicans to make Obamacare much of an issue in 2012.
The price he is paying for that shortsightedness might doom the program anyway. If not enough healthy people sign up, the result will be huge losses for insurance companies who will then abandon the exchanges. At that point, the same people who designed this monstrosity are going to claim that only they know how to fix it - a single payer system with the federal government in the driver's seat.