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Report: HealthCare.gov still can’t fix application errors

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The Obamacare exchange website hasn’t been able to fix processing errors for customer applications The Washington Post reports, imperiling coverage for tens of thousands.

The consumer-facing portion of HealthCare.gov has markedly improved since the problem-plagued rollout in October, but a serious backlog of error-ridden applications remains. Approximately 22,000 Americans have filed appeals with the Obama administration to fix mistakes made during the application process, according to internal government data obtained by The Washington Post.

Customers’ complaints vary. Some believe HealthCare.gov charged too high a price for their plan, some were sent to the wrong insurance program, and some were denied coverage outright. The 22,000 have filled out seven-page forms detailing the problem, sent their complaints to a contractor and had the complaints entered into a computer system, but are still waiting for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make the changes.

HealthCare.gov workers still can’t fix the growing pile of appeals — and customers who haven’t filed formal requests are regularly told that it’s the computer system that won’t allow employees to change enrollment records, the Post reports.

Huge swaths of the site remain unfinished, although the front-end portion consumers deal with has been updated. Back-end operations between HealthCare.gov and insurers or state agencies remain far behind.

HealthCare.gov is still sending inaccurate Medicaid information to state agencies, which aren’t able to enroll their constituents in the program as promised. The Obama administration is tasked with sending manual subsidy payments to insurers, since the electronic payment system has not been built yet. Other changes to insurance applications can’t be made either — including updating health status and coverage to include new babies.

The Obama administration is rushing to get the website’s many flaws fixed by March, before the end of Obamacare’s open enrollment period and the deadline for Americans to hold insurance coverage or be penalized.

New HealthCare.gov contractor Accenture, which replaced panned IT company CGI Federal in January, has very limited time to make major updates to the site.

A CMS procurement document, posted online after Accenture’s new contract was announced, warns that if HealthCare.gov is not completely built by March, federal finances, insurers and the whole health care industry could be jeopardized.

“There is limited time to build this functionality and failure to deliver…by mid-March 2014 will result in financial harm to the government,” the document reads.

“If this functionality is not complete by mid-March 2014, the government could make erroneous payments to providers and insurers…without a Financial Management platform that accounts for enrollments and associated program costs that integrates with the existing CMS Accounting platform, the entire healthcare reform program is jeopardized.”

With the backlog of website updates to HealthCare.gov taking higher priority, it’s not clear when those struggling to get the right coverage for the right price will be able to get HealthCare.gov’s records corrected. CMS spokesman Aaron Albright told the Post that CMS is “working to fully implement the appeals system.”

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