News

Watchdog says Obamacare exchanges not working

Watchdog says Obamacare exchanges not working

HEALTHCARE HEADACHES:The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General said in two reports that some "internal controls" were ineffective in verifying eligibility at the marketplaces run by the federal government, California, Connecticut and some other states. Photo: Associated Press

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Online insurance marketplaces created under President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law are struggling to verify whether Americans who applied for government subsidies to purchase health insurance are actually qualified to receive them, a federal watchdog agency said on Tuesday.

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General said in two reports that some “internal controls” were ineffective in verifying eligibility at the marketplaces run by the federal government, California, Connecticut and some other states.

Applicants for subsidies must enter income data, Social Security numbers and other information into the online systems. The maximum household income allowed for a subsidy is four times the federal poverty level, or about $94,200 for a family of four.

“The deficiencies in internal controls that we identified may have limited the marketplaces’ ability to prevent the use of inaccurate or fraudulent information when determining eligibility of applicants for enrollment in qualified health plans,” the inspector general said.

The reports mark the second potential setback in two days to the 2010 healthcare law. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday limited its mandate to provide universal contraception coverage for women.

The HHS inspector general’s findings, dismissed by the White House as based on ‘outdated information,’ prompted fresh complaints from Republicans in Congress, whose attention in recent weeks had been redirected to other issues in the runup to November’s mid-term elections.

“When Obamacare was passed, its chief architects told us they would have to pass the bill to find out what was in it,” said Senator Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. “Today’s report confirms what we knew was not included: safeguards to protect hard-earned taxpayer dollars from an incompetent bureaucracy.”

The California marketplace had difficulties verifying citizenship and lawful presence, while the federal marketplace had difficulty verifying Social Security numbers, the inspector general said.

A companion report found that the federal and some state insurance marketplaces could not, in their early months of operation, resolve most inconsistencies between applicants’ self-supplied information and data received through other federal sources, most commonly citizenship and income levels.

The federal marketplace was unable to resolve 2.6 million of 2.9 million inconsistencies as of the first quarter of 2014, because of systems not fully operational from October through December last year.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest dismissed the inspector general reports as being based largely on “outdated information” from late 2013, when the Obamacare website was struggling to function properly.

He said more work needs to be done to resolve inconsistencies, such as slight variations on a person’s name between federal databases, but these do not necessarily indicate problems with applications that have been submitted.

“We are confident the vast majority of these inconsistencies will be reconciled,” Earnest said.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that owners of private companies can object on religious grounds to an Affordable Care Act provision that requires them to provide insurance covering certain kinds of birth control for women.

(Reporting by David Lawder, with; additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Gunna Dickson)

Recent Headlines

in Sports

After death of 9-year-old, no more bat boys and girls

Fresh
13-overlay2

The National Baseball Congress is suspending the use of bat boys and girls during its World Series in Kansas following the death of a 9-year-old boy who was hit by a bat.

in National

More fights ahead on Planned Parenthood after Senate vote

12-overlay

Now that the Senate has derailed Republican legislation halting federal dollars for Planned Parenthood, one thing seems clear: Many on both sides think they can ring up gains from the battle.

in Sports

Stanley Cup winner Schneider new Hall of Famer

nhl

Stanley Cup winner Mathieu Schneider is among four new inductees to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

in Sports

Prosecutors: Hernandez tipster had sex ties with ex-NFL star

aaronhernandez

Massachusetts prosecutors said on Monday that an anonymous caller, who told lawyers for former NFL star Aaron Hernandez that one of the jurors who found him guilty of murder should have been disqualified, had a sexual relationship with the athlete.

in National

Illegal immigration a dominant theme at Republican forum even without Trump

republicancandidates

There was no Donald Trump but his top issue, illegal immigration, was a dominant theme for 14 Republican presidential candidates who tested their messages at a forum to start a pivotal week on the campaign trail.