While the Obama administration boasts that the front end of HealthCare.gov is supposedly working better, the government reportedly still has to process over 50,000 paper applications it took in when the site was all but inoperable.
The stunning number was buried in a Washington Post report Friday.
“Even though HealthCare.gov has been working better since the start of the month, there are still reasons why people may be having trouble getting coverage,” Amy Goldstein reports for the Post. “One significant reason is that the federal marketplace has accumulated a backlog of 50,000 to 60,000 paper applications as cracks have appeared in that low-tech method offered this fall as a backup plan, according to government officials.”
While the Post reports that the government has hired an outside contractor — Serco — to help process the backlog, it remains unclear how long it might take.
“No one knows how many of the consumers who sent in a paper application have chosen a health plan online now that the Web site is working better,” reports Goldstein. “As a result, health officials are trying to work through the entire backlog, but it is unclear how completely or how quickly they can address it. The effort was hindered when a computer portal on which the contractor relies went down for three days in the past week, according to an individual with knowledge of the system who spoke on the condition of anonymity about information that has not been made public.”
But the problem doesn’t stop with the 50,000 to 60,000 paper applications that haven’t been processed. The government apparently hasn’t notified many of the 100,000 consumers whose applications have been processed, so they have not been able to fully enroll in Obamacare yet.
“Besides the applications in the backlog, there are roughly 100,000 paper applications that have been processed, but the consumer was not told of the results until recently,” reports Goldstein. “The applicants are supposed to be mailed notification letters, but none went out until recently and the vast majority still have not. As a result, officials said, Serco workers last week tried calling the roughly 100,000 people to inform them of the eligibility decision and urge them to go online to sign up. It is not clear how many they were able to reach. The rest of the people who filed paper applications are being called as well.”
As Goldstein notes, paper applications don’t allow individuals to fully enroll in Obamacare, but are “are supposed to handle the important step of determining whether a consumer qualifies for a federal subsidy to pay for a private health plan or qualifies for a public program for people with lower incomes, such as Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”
As of Monday, consumers have one week — until Dec. 23 — to enroll in a health care plan through the Obamacare exchanges to ensure coverage beginning Jan. 1.