The Obama administration is trying to revamp HealthCare.gov yet again, but while the consumer-facing portions of the site will get an update, the back-end construction is running behind schedule again.
The federal government is hoping to get the website working for customers in time for the next open enrollment period, which has been delayed a month until Nov. 15, hoping to avoid another breakdown akin to the Obamacare exchange’s initial launch last fall. (RELATED: Docs Reveal Just One Person Signed Up For Obamacare On Day One)
The administration will redo coverage applications which most customers will use and a comparison tool for health plans, according to slides from a May 20 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services meeting with insurance companies, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The administration is also replacing the software that allows customers to create accounts and to log in to the website, called EIDM, which was plagued with serious technical issues during HealthCare.gov’s initial launch last fall. Contractors are most worried about this part of the revamp.
“My opinion, no way they can do that before the next open enrollment,” one senior official at a government contractor told the Wall Street Journal. “Tune and tweak? Yes. Replace? No way.”
Health insurance industry officials told the WSJ that coverage renewals — a different and, hopefully, simpler process than signing up for coverage for the first time — are a particular concern for health plans. It’s one of the few HealthCare.gov functions that wasn’t attempted in the website’s disastrous debut.
But while new contractors and a team of top Silicon Valley executives is tackling much of HealthCare.gov’s makeover, the time limits for the website’s back-end operations are pressing. The Obama administration gave up on constructing the portion of the website which consumers don’t see during Obamacare’s first open enrollment period and workers are already behind the delayed-schedule for getting it up and running.
Back-end operations include communications between the federal government and insurance companies participating in the exchange, for one. Communicating correct and complete enrollment information between CMS, insurers and state governments has continued to be a struggle. (RELATED: 3 Million Stuck In Medicaid Backlog Sparked By Obamacare Expansion)
One in four sign-ups so far have applications with discrepancies about income or immigration status, which could affect the level of premium subsidies two million customers are currently receiving. The income verification system, which would have sorted out discrepancies before doling out subsidies, was delayed last July and still hasn’t been built.
The automatic function for paying subsidies to insurance companies has also been delayed. After federal officials failed to complete the payment system before the October HealthCare.gov launch, they scheduled its launch for mid-March; now the administration hopes to have it functional in 2015.
Apart from the HealthCare.gov individual exchange, the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP exchange, was fully delayed last year, and the Obama administration plans to launch Nov. 15. Many state-run SHOP exchanges are requesting an additional year’s delay from the Obama administration.