White House Tells Obamacare Subscribers to Make Sure They're Really Enrolled

By Susan Jones | December 3, 2013 | 6:23am EST

The Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov. (AP)

(CNSNews.com) - White House spokesman Jay Carney said the White House is "very mindful of making sure that consumers who want coverage starting in January are able to get it." But there's no guarantee.

In fact, Carney said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is "reaching out directly to consumers" who have chosen a health insurance plan, reminding them to pay their first premium -- and asking them to make sure they are really covered:

"So there's a joint effort to reach out to those who have enrolled to make sure that every step is being -- that they know they need to take all the necessary steps to ensure that that coverage kicks in," Carney said on Monday.

The problem involves the transmittal of information from the faulty healthcare.gov website to the actual insurers.

According to Carney, "CMS is having daily conversations with issuers to get feedback from them." He said the administration has made "a number of significant fixes to the so-called 834 forms," which send a subscriber's information to the policy issuers. "We expect the info now sent to insurers to be vastly improved. But we're going to continue to work with issuers to make sure that whatever remaining problems exist are addressed and fixed."

Asked if he can assure people who sign up if they will "definitely" have coverage beginning on Jan. 1, Carney responded, "Well, I think what I would say is that CMS is reaching out to those who have enrolled to make sure that they know the steps that they need to take to ensure that coverage kicks in, that if a consumer enrolls in a plan by December 23rd and makes their first payment by the date set by their insurers, they are covered beginning January 1st. And if consumers are not sure if they are enrolled, they should call our customer call center or the insurer of their choice so that they can be sure they're covered by January 1st.

"So we're making -- this is a high priority, making sure that those who are enrolled are aware of the steps that they need to take, including that they need to pay their premiums on time for coverage. We're working with insurers to make sure that those who are enrolled know this information, and we're reaching out -- we're telling consumers that if they're not sure if they're enrolled, they should call the call center or their insurer directly."

The White House continues to insist that the inadequate website will work effectively for the "vast majority of users." Among the recent fixes -- when too many subscribers (more than 50,000, the White House says) log onto the site, they will be put into the equivalent of a waiting room -- a queuing system -- that will email them when it's possible to return to the enrollment portion of the website.

Carney said the queuing system will "make the whole operation more effective and smooth."

'Can you imagine?'

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) says the "back-end" of the Obamacare website, where subscribers' information is transmitted to insurers, is a "serious issue."

"Because if the insurers aren't getting accurate information, they don't know who is enrolled and they can't verify that someone's enrolled, then that's going to be a real problem for people trying to get coverage," Ayotte told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren on Monday.

"Can you imagine? You think you've signed up. You go to get coverage because you need health care. You go there and you find out that, in fact, you haven't been signed up. That is a huge issue because what does someone do at that point? How do they work their way through the bureaucracy to actually verify they've been signed up? I see this as much of an issue as the access issue on the health care (website). The fact that that has not been fixed is a huge problem."

Beyond the website and insurance verification problems, Ayotte pointed to higher insurance premiums. She also noted that in New Hampshire, there is only one insurer available to Obamacare subscribers; ten of New Hampshire's 26 hosptials are not available to subscribers; and she also mentioned reduced work hours because of Obamacare stipulation that a full-time job is 30, not 40, hours a week.

The business and economic reporting of CNSNews.com is funded in part with a gift made in memory of Dr. Keith C. Wold.

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