Tag Archives: Healthcare.gov

You Have Extra Time to Sign Up for Obamacare Plans

Americans who couldn’t enroll in federal Obamacare insurance plans over the weekend because of computer glitches or long waits will now have until next Sunday to sign up, federal officials announced early Monday.

“We are pleased that the vast majority of consumers were able to apply and pick a plan through HealthCare.gov or its call center without a problem,” said Aaron Albright, spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“For those consumers who were unable to complete their enrollment because of longer than normal wait times at the call center in the last three days or because of a technical issue such as being unable to submit an application because their income could not be verified, we will provide them with a time-limited special enrollment period for March 1 coverage.”

The special enrollment period begins Monday and ends Feb. 22.

The extension was prompted by the Saturday outage of an Internal Revenue Service function for Obamacare enrollment, which could have prevented about 500,000 people from enrolling. The glitch prevented some people from getting their income verified so they could enroll on HealthCare.gov and at least some state exchanges by the Sunday deadline.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Fifty Percent of Households Will Not Use Online Exchanges

The Washington Times (11/4, Howell) reports that more than half of US households that used an ACA health insurance exchange last year said they will not do so again in the upcoming open enrollment period, according to a survey released Monday. Bankrate.com, which sponsored the survey “said 51 percent don’t want to use HealthCare.gov or their state-run insurance marketplaces again.” About 40 percent cited “much higher prices for health plans” on the exchanges this year, making it the top concern among those surveyed. Twenty-one percent cited technological problems that affected the Federal portal and some state exchanges last year. Still, “more than half said they personally had a positive experience during the previous enrollment, while 43 percent said they had a bad experience.”

The Daily Caller (11/3, Hurtubise) adds that according to the Bankrate Health Insurance Pulse survey, those “who earn less and receive higher premium subsidies were more likely to renew their plans.” Fifty-two percent of last year’s customers said they were confident that the ACA exchanges would function smoothly this year, compared with 45 percent who expect more glitches.

NJBIZ (11/3) reports that the survey “suggests many consumers will simply auto-enroll in their current plan rather than shop around for a new one — meaning they could miss a chance to buy a plan that’s more affordable or better suits their needs, according to Bankrate.com insurance analyst Doug Whiteman.”

The Phoenix Business Journal (11/4, Subscription Publication) and CNBC (11/4) also report the story.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

New IRS Forms for Tax Credits

If you got health coverage through President Barack Obama’s law this year, you’ll need a new form from your insurance exchange before you can file your tax return next spring.

Some tax professionals are worried that federal and state insurance marketplaces won’t be able to get those forms out in time, creating the risk of delayed tax refunds for millions of consumers.

The same federal agency that had trouble launching HealthCare.gov last fall is facing the heaviest lift.

The Health and Human Services Department must send out millions of the forms, which are like W-2s for people getting tax credits to help pay health insurance premiums.

The form is called a 1095-A, and it lists who in each household has health coverage and how much the government paid each month to subsidize their premiums. Nearly 5 million people have gotten subsidies through HealthCare.gov.

If the forms are delayed past their Jan. 31 deadline, some people may have to wait to file tax returns — and collect their refunds.

A delay of a week or two may not sound like much, but many people depend on their tax refunds to plug holes in family finances.

The uncertainty is unnerving to some tax preparation companies, which try to run their filing season operations like a military drill. The Obama administration says it’s on task, but it won’t provide much detail.

States operating their own health insurance marketplaces will also have to send out the forms, but the federal exchange serving 36 states has the biggest job. HHS will have to manage that while in the midst of running the 2015 health insurance sign-up season, when millions more are expected to try to get coverage.

“It’s very unrealistic to expect that they would be able to implement a process that distributed these forms in the middle of open enrollment, and on time,” said George Brandes, vice president for health care programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

The average tax refund is about $2,690, and people who count on getting money back often file early.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary

The Obama Administration Hires Google Professional

Faced with the politically devastating collapse of HealthCare.gov last year, President Obama’s White House staff lured Mikey Dickerson away from Google to save the day.

Mr. Dickerson will lead a new government team that is intended to identify and fix the government’s other failing computer systems and websites, officials said Monday.

The decision to hire Mr. Dickerson full time is a blunt acknowledgment that even Mr. Obama’s government — with a leadership that embraced technology to win two national elections — has yet to fully adopt a Silicon Valley mind-set when it comes to cutting-edge computer systems and consumer-friendly Internet portals.

It is also a calculated bet that Mr. Dickerson can do from inside the government what he did as an outsider: break through the bureaucratic rules about technology procurement and standardized practices to inject a bit of innovative thinking across agencies.

“It was a very life-changing experience,” Mr. Dickerson said Monday of his role in helping to save the health care website. Speaking in a conference call with reporters, he said that when he was asked to permanently leave his job at Google, “there was really not any way I could say no to that.”

White House officials said Mr. Dickerson would become the deputy chief information officer of the federal government and the administrator of the United States Digital Services Team, a small group of technology experts whose job will be to fix the government’s websites.

Initially, he will lead a small team that will try to help the information technology teams at various agencies produce better websites that people actually want to use. Steve VanRoekel, the federal chief information officer for electronic government, noted the happy experiences people often have when they spend their mornings on Facebook, Amazon or Expedia. “They may not have the same experience spending their afternoon on government websites,” he said in the conference call.

Mr. Dickerson said the goal of his new team was to change that. In addition to announcing his hiring, the White House also released a draft “playbook” that agency technology officers can use to bolster their websites and computer systems. The playbook is drawn in part from what he did at the Department of Health and Human Services last year.

Fixing what ails most government sites, Mr. Dickerson said, is not unlike the task that he faced in the winter of 2013 when he arrived in Columbia, Md., the nerve center of HealthCare.gov.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

 

No Need to Visit HealthCare.gov to Renew Insurance

The Obama administration announced Thursday that most people would be able to renew subsidized health insurance coverage without filing an application and without going back to HealthCare.gov, the website that frustrated millions of consumers last fall.

But some people will have to go into the marketplace again — if, for example, their income has changed or they want to shop for a better deal in 2015.

Under rules proposed Thursday by the administration, most people who purchased health plans in the federal insurance marketplace could automatically renew their coverage and premium subsidies provided under the Affordable Care Act.

More than 5.4 million people selected health plans in the federal exchange for 2014, and 86 percent of them were found eligible for subsidies that lower the cost.

If millions of people had to enroll again through HealthCare.gov it could have proved a logistical nightmare for many consumers, insurers and federal officials. “There had been talk of everyone having to re-enroll, which would have been a disaster,” said an insurance industry expert who meets often with federal officials and requested anonymity so as not to jeopardize those relationships.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the new secretary of Health and Human Services, said the administration was determined to minimize the hassles in the next open enrollment period, which runs from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15, 2015.

“We are working to streamline the process for consumers wishing to remain in their current plan,” said Ms. Burwell, who issued the rules encouraging automatic renewal.

Aaron Albright, a spokesman at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the federal exchange, said: “At least 95 percent of consumers in the marketplace will not have to do anything to renew their plans and their financial assistance. They won’t have to do anything to re-enroll.”

Federal officials will specify the contents of notices that insurers will send consumers later this year. A typical notice says: “Your health insurance coverage is coming up for renewal. You will be automatically re-enrolled and can keep your current coverage.”

The proposed rules show how the Affordable Care Act is becoming entwined in the fabric of national health policy and government regulation. Even as politicians continue fighting over the law, and many Republicans still hope to roll it back, but the Obama administration is writing rules to keep the program in operation for years.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Kathleen Sebelius Resigns as Health Secretary

After a storm of criticism for a poor launch of the Healthcare.gov website, Kathleen Sebelius has resigned. President Obama will appoint Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the Director of the Office Management and Budget.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary

President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary