Time to check in on the Healthcare.gov quagmire, where health department officials are facing 2.6 million "inconsistencies" — places where information submitted on an application failed to match government records — that were supposed to be resolved months ago.
Income and citizenship status are causing the most problems, followed by employer-sponsored minimum coverage, Social Security number, non-employer sponsored minimum coverage, incarceration status, and Native American status. All these factors affect an applicant's eligibility for insurance and subsidies.
The department expected some applicants would have problems with their applications, either due to errors or deliberate lies, and it budgeted 90 days to reconcile the data. That wasn't enough time, as it turned out. Technical issues delayed the verification process, according to a report released today by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General. Some marketplaces also failed to notify applicants that there were problems with their applications. By February 2014, only 11 percent of inconsistencies had been fixed.
For example, one marketplace cited situations in which infants and young children included on applications were erroneously identified as incarcerated, according to Federal data.
"The Federal marketplace was generally incapable of resolving most inconsistencies," the report says. "Without the ability to resolve inconsistencies in an applicant’s eligibility data, the marketplace cannot ensure that an applicant meets each of the eligibility requirements for enrollment... [or] eligibility for insurance affordability programs."
The typical family of four submits 21 pieces of data that need to be verified, according to HHS, so the 2.6 million inconsistencies doesn't necessarily mean 2.6 million separate applications are in trouble. However, a leaked internal document published a month ago by the Associated Press suggested around 2 million people could be affected.
Some people may have been told they qualify for subsidies when they don't
HHS has also emphasized that the sprawling inconsistencies won't "jeopardize" health insurance coverage. "Two million consumers are not at risk of losing coverage — they simply need to work with us in good faith to provide additional information that supports their application for coverage and we are working through these cases expeditiously," the agency said in a statement last month.
However, that's exactly what it means. Some applicants may have been granted smaller subsidies than they actually deserve, but it also means that some people who got approved for coverage or federal subsidies may not be eligible for either. And that means their health insurance or subsidies could be taken away.