WASHINGTON — Obama administration officials announced Friday that the enrollment records for an estimated one in four Americans who chose health plans through the online federal marketplace in October contained computer-generated errors that complicated their ability to finish buying coverage. Officials said that such errors have now become less common.
Currently, the website, HealthCare.gov, is making mistakes in the records of an estimated one in 10 people signing up for a health plan, according to Julie Bataille, director of communications for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that oversees the federal health-insurance exchange.
Bataille emphasized that the 25 percent error rate for October — the exchange's problem-ridden first month — and the smaller current number are preliminary, drawn from a sample of enrollments. She said that more precise numbers will not be available until the CMS and insurers finish cross-checking enrollment lists to make sure that health plans know who has signed up for coverage.
Flawed enrollment records have been a major concern to insurers selling health plans through the federal health exchange — and it has important implications for consumers. The records, known as 834 forms, are supposed to be sent early every evening from the federal online system to each participating health plan to notify them of who their new customers are. From there, insurers send each customer a bill. After that, consumers must pay the first month's insurance premium before their coverage begins.
The preliminary 25 percent error rate for October, announced by Bataille in a phone call with reporters, is out of about 27,000 people who signed up in the month after the health exchange opened on Oct. 1.
Insurers are now working with CMS to try to resolve a variety of errors that have plagued the enrollment records. In some instances, the system was not sending insurers records of people who had enrolled. Other errors have included duplicative enrollment and cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members and mistakes involving federal subsidies.
Once the online system is working more fully, it will include an automated way — called "reconciliation" — for the government and participating health plans to compare their lists of who has signed up. That process is supposed to start the middle of this month, but the required part of the system is not yet built.