Automated payment systems for the federal Obamacare exchange still haven’t been built, a top Obama administration official told a House subcommittee.
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations heard testimony from Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which helps oversee HealthCare.gov, Thursday.
“The automated process for payments is still being built,” Cohen admitted upon questioning from subcommittee chairman Rep. Tim Murphy. “But we have a process in place that is working and payments will be going out next week.”
Cohen was unable to tell Murphy when HealthCare.gov’s payment systems will be finally built.
The automated payment system will directly transfer federal Obamacare subsidies to insurance companies. The temporary system Cohen referenced simply allows insurers to calculate the amount of federal payments they’re owed for HealthCare.gov customers.
Cohen told the subcommittee that the first set of subsidy payments will be made next week.
It was revealed during a November 19 House hearing that HealthCare.gov’s back-end operations had gone unfinished even after the Obamacare exchange launched October 1. Henry Chao, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ Chief Information Officer, told Congress that 30 to 40 percent of HealthCare.gov still hadn’t been built.
At that point, HHS officials had yet to begin constructing the payment systems.
Now, HealthCare.gov’s payment process still hasn’t been completed, although the exchange has been live for over three months and the federal government is days away from making its first subsidy payments.
Insurers will be receiving a hefty amount of federal payments as well. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its first demographic information regarding exchange signups Monday, revealing that a whopping 79 percent of Obamacare customers nationwide will receive some federal subsidies to offset their premiums.
The site was launched on October 1 with just basic customer-facing functions, including the abilities to make an account, determine subsidy eligibility, and select a plan, while the parts of the site the public couldn’t see were left unfinished. The Obama administration had hoped to gain extra time to build the rest of the site before HHS would have to communicate coverage and send payments to insurance companies.
Even these simple functions failed to work and HealthCare.gov continued having problems correctly calculating the amount of subsidies consumers were eligible for into December.
Cohen told the subcommittee that HealthCare.gov’s drastic and immediate breakdown took him by surprise.
“I had no indication prior to October 1 that we were going to have the major, major problems with the website that we ended up having,” Cohen said.
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