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Insurers: Despite deadline, Obamacare glitches persist

By Chris Frates, CNN
updated 8:56 PM EST, Wed November 27, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Insurers worry glitches will keep consumers from buying insurance
  • Personal data is not always making it to insurers
  • The Obama administration says it's making progress on a fix to HealthCare.gov
  • It says the site, which had a rocky rollout, should be working more smoothly by the weekend

(CNN) -- The Obama administration is promising a much smoother ride on HealthCare.gov come Saturday, but insurers worry that behind-the-scenes glitches will keep consumers from enrolling in the health insurance plans they want.

Insurance industry insiders tell CNN that when some people sign up for coverage through the website, their personal data is not being properly transmitted to the insurance companies of their choosing.

Insurers are still getting inaccurate and duplicative data. And that's even if it makes it to them at all.

So how do insurers know they aren't getting the information?

Customers who signed up for coverage are calling the companies with questions and finding they aren't in their systems. And insurers have been testing the site, submitting John Doe records and not seeing them come out the other end, an industry official said.

"There's no part of us that thinks all of this will be fixed in three days from now," the industry official said, referring to the administration's self-imposed Saturday deadline to make the site work for a "vast majority" of users.

Another insurance industry insider was more blunt, saying: "It's still all jacked up."

Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the insurance trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, was more circumspect.

"There is still a lot of work to be done to make sure that enrollments can be done and processed accurately," he said.

If the problems aren't fixed, insurers fear a worst-case scenario where consumers sign up for insurance through the website and think they're enrolled, only to find out at the doctor's office that they don't have any coverage.

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Insures are warily watching to see how the administration talks about the site following this Saturday's deadline to improve it.

"If they come out and claim victory over the weekend, it's just not true," the industry insider said. "The question is, can you guarantee that someone who's gone through this process and signed up will have coverage January 1? As of today, the honest answer would be no."

The administration said it has made good progress on a fix to the federal online portal for consumers to purchase coverage under the Affordable Care Act following its rocky -- and politically charged -- rollout in October.

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Consumers who pick a plan by December 23 and pay their premium by December 31 will have coverage effective January 1, said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a key player working to repair the site.

"When a consumer selects a plan and enrolls in marketplace coverage, an orange message is clearly displayed letting them know that they must make payment to be covered. A consumer will receive contact from their issuer about how to make payment. If they do not receive that notice, and are uncertain if their enrollment has been processed, they should contact the issuer," he said.

One insurance executive said the industry is raising its voice now about the problems because officials are trying to set low expectations and avoid blame should problems persist beyond Saturday.

"The insurance industry, of which I'm a part and can say this pretty confidently, the insurance industry is making it worse than it is," the executive said. "But it's still a problem."

Sebelius: Obamacare website improvements 'on track'

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