- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2013

The Obama administration said up to 1 in 4 of the forms that transmitted enrollment data from the federal Obamacare exchange to insurers may have contained errors in October and November, according to a preliminary review.

That error rate now hovers around 1 in 10, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said in its first public indication of how extensive the problems among the transmissions, or “834 forms,” might be on the system that serves 36 states under the Affordable Care Act.

The numbers were based on an initial review and may not be precise, the agency warned.

“This analysis is preliminary and certainly not final,” CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille told reporters during the agency’s daily update on HealthCare.gov.

Ms. Bataille said the agency is working with insurers to take stock of the problem, as pressure mounts to address errors on the back end of the system.

The Obama administration is attempting to turn the corner after the health overhaul’s disastrous debut, with the White House pushing positive news on a daily basis. On Friday, it said reforms within the law are leading to lower hospital readmission rates among Medicare beneficiaries.

But HealthCare.gov, the balky federal website that’s supposed to connect people with private health plans and government subsidies to defray costs, has received the lion’s share of attention.

The administration committed itself to fixing many of the front-end problems on the federal website by the start of this month.

As of noon Friday, 3.7 million people had visited HealthCare.gov for the week, CMS reported.

CMS said it had to deploy its new queuing system twice last week, when visitors overwhelmed site capacity, and that 16,000 users typed in their email addresses so they could be told when to come back to the site.

About 93 percent of them returned, Ms. Bataille said.

But with the enrollment portion performing much better, the focus is shifting to duplicate or missing data on back-end forms sent to insurers.

Analysts say the errors could be critical, since the forms contain information about individual enrollees and their preferred plans. Without accurate data, the enrollee may think he or she is covered and then find out otherwise during a trip to the doctor.

Ms. Bataille said many of the errors were wrapped up in early problems with the site and should be disappearing.

She said the agency is working with insurers to confirm and validate data tied to the problem, instead of relying on anecdotal evidence.

She said the idea is to make sure that fixes “are now being seen” in the insurers’ systems.

Ms. Bataille also confirmed that Jeff Zients, the management specialist tapped to turn around HealthCare.gov, is still working for the administration despite recently announced improvements with the website.

“Jeff is still working 24/7 on this effort,” she said.

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