Obamacare’s website dropped out of the news cycle once most of its user-experience problems had been solved. But the site will need more work on the back end if it’s to communicate effectively with insurance companies. That means insurers might not get an accurate count of their new customers anytime soon. Companies have been relying on a manual “interim accounting process” to calculate premiums instead, which has been as error-prone as you’d expect. Politico reports on the concerns of industry trade groups like America’s Health Insurance Plans:
“While the functions at HealthCare.gov and the overall enrollment process continue to improve, significant issues remain,” the group wrote. “[C]ore functions … are not yet operational. Instead, CMS has asked plans to utilize interim processes until systems can be developed and tested. Complicating all of this work is a lack of clear, written guidance on the many operational and policy issues that have arisen.”Although the insurers say they can live with the delays for now, the urgency will increase as Obamacare nears its second enrollment season in November.“I think there comes a point where it becomes unmanageable,” said Dan Schuyler, director of exchange technology for the consulting firm Leavitt Partners.
These back-of-the-envelope calculations could be so wide of the mark that the “mother of all reconciliations” could occur once the website is fully operational, says insurance-industry consultant Robert Laszewski. Once again we are seeing the fallout from the ACA’s faulty implementation, as deadline after deadline has been missed or pushed back. In this case, the missed deadlines for the website could mean that insurers will revise their estimates of new enrollees and raise premiums for some customers already in the system. Until insurers (and the public) get all the information they were promised, we simply won’t know enough to rule the law a success or a failure.