open enrollment

HealthCare.gov CEO: This enrollment period is going to be even more complicated

Things are running far from smoothly at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ headquarters.

According to The Hill, HealthCare.gov’s newly appointed CEO admitted concern when talking about the many challenges the agency will have to face once the enrollment period rolls in.

The former head of Connecticut’s state exchange Kevin Counihan believes the shorter sign-up period, among other issues, will certainly add more anxiety to the enrollment process, creating headaches for government officials and distress to consumers.

It’s not enough to know technical flaws have been linked to one of the most disastrous government-run program launches in history. It’s also not enough to know that the failure is undoubtedly associated with the Obama administration’s faulty managerial skills; now, we are faced with yet another uncomfortable reality, government officials never learn the lesson.

While reporting the exchange website has indeed gone under extensive repairs since the last botched attempt to provide a health care plan marketplace for consumers, The Hill also highlighted Counihan’s remarks regarding his HealthCare.gov concerns:

“In some respects, it’s going to be more complicated. Part of me thinks that this year is going to make last year look like the good old days.”

HealthCare.gov down for maintenance on final Obamacare sign-up day

Healthcare.gov down for maintenance

It’s the final day of the first quarter of the year, which, if you’re a politics nerd, means that your inbox is filled with last-minute fundraising pleas from politicians and candidates looking hoping to post strong numbers on their next FEC disclosures.

It’s also the deadline to enroll in a health plan on the state and federal Obamacare exchanges, and the Obama administration is making its final push to get people enrolled. In a little more than a week, this author has received five emails from “The HealthCare.gov Team” with reminders that the March 31 deadline is approaching.

March 20 (click to enlarge):

March 26:

March 28:

March 29:

The last email, sent yesterday, March 30, says, “YOU ONLY HAVE 1 DAY LEFT!” to enroll in a health plan on the exchange. “Don’t put this off any longer,” they wrote. “We don’t want you to miss this opportunity for quality, affordable health coverage through the Marketplace.”

Enrollment extension could cause headaches for insurers

The Obama administration’s extension of the Obamacare open enrollment period past the original March 31 deadline could be a headache for insurance companies participating on the exchanges. Insurers are supposed to begin submitting their rates for 2015 in a couple of months, and the extended enrollment period is adding to the uncertainty created by the law:

Insurers fear that past-deadline enrollees could complicate efforts to calculate premiums for next year, which will be filed with regulators from this spring. Health plans want to know who has signed up this year and their medical needs, so they can gauge what to charge in 2015.

“The more information that’s coming in that we can’t use for our [rate] filing because of the time frame, the less accurate and predictive we will be,” said Patrick Getzen, chief actuary at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Insurers have also pushed for enrollment periods to be tightly restricted, to avoid the prospect of healthy people waiting until they have an accident or illness to obtain coverage now that health plans can no longer bar people based on their medical condition. “The special enrollment period needs to be limited to a clear period of time,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group.

Harry Reid lies about saying Obamacare horror stories are lies

Harry Reid

So, there are two really absurd things Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on Wednesday. First, during a press conference, he defended the Obama administration’s extension of Obamacare open enrollment period, telling reporters that Americans don’t know how to use the Internet.

Back on February 26, Reid ranted from the Senate floor about Obamacare horror stories that were being told by Republicans and in issue ads produced by Americans for Prosperity, saying in no uncertain terms that they were “untrue” and “lies.”

“Despite all that good news, there are plenty of horror stories being told. All of them are untrue, but they are being told all over America,” said Reid, according to the Congressional Record. “We heard about the evils of ObamaCare, about the lives it is ruining in the Republican stump speeches and in ads paid for by oil magnets, the Koch brothers.”

“But those tales turned out to be just that — tales, stories made up from whole cloth, lies, distorted by the Republicans to grab headlines or make political advertisements,” he added.

These astonishing comments were seized upon by Republicans, who are hoping to take control of the chamber this fall. The Washington Free Beacon put together a video highlighting clips of local news stories from all 50 states in which ordinary people told their Obamacare horror stories.

But in remarks on the Senate floor yesterday, aimed at Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Reid denied that he ever said Obamacare horror stories were lies.

Reid to Americans: You’re too stupid to know how to use the Internet

During a press conference on Wednesday, one that was supposed to be about immigration reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) found himself defending the Obama administration’s extension of the Obamacare enrollment deadline.

Reid, whose behavior in recent weeks is odd even for him, told reporters that reason the administration extended the enrollment deadline past March 31 is because Americans don’t know how to use the Internet:

“No, it’s through no fault of the Internet, because people are not educated on how to use the Internet,” Reid said.

Reid referenced a story he heard on the radio, in which a 63-year-old woman in Connecticut was able to sign up for the law in person at one of two locations set up by the state. The woman said she was nearly successful at signing up on healthcare.gov, but the system cut her off at the end.

“We have a lot of people just like this,” Reid said.

Here’s the video via the Washington Free Beacon:

Administration extends Obamacare open enrollment period

Just a few days after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney floated the idea, the Obama administration has extended the Obamacare open enrollment period, originally slated to end on March 31, for those who have created an account on federal exchange website, Healthcare.gov, but haven’t yet completed the sign-up process:

Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.

Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth.

The rules, which will apply to the federal exchanges operating in three dozen states, will essentially create a large loophole even as White House officials have repeatedly said that the March 31 deadline was firm. The extra time will not technically alter the deadline but will create a broad new category of people eligible for what’s known as a special enrollment period.

Since the administration isn’t going to put checks in place to ensure that the potential enrollee is telling the truth, this is tacit extension of the deadline for everyone, not just those who tried to sign-up in the six-month open enrollment period.

Administration may extend Obamacare enrollment deadline for some

The White House has hinted that it may extended the Obamacare enrollment deadline for Americans who experienced technical problems on the state and federal exchanges, much like the administration did in December for those who wanted to sign up for health insurance coverage at the beginning of the year.

“March 31 was the deadline, as was the case for the December deadline, we’re going to want to make sure that people who are already in line can finish their enrollment,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Friday, pointing them to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for further explanation.

“We want to make sure, as we did in December, on that deadline, that folks who have begun the process are able to complete it,” said Carney. “We certainly expect, naysayers notwithstanding, that there’s going to be continued interest right up to the deadline, and that interest will probably increase as we approach the deadline.”

Poll: 56% of uninsured hold unfavorable view of Obamacare

With a little more than a month to go in the open enrollment period, the latest tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that a record number of uninsured Americans hold an unfavorable view of Obamacare.

The poll found that 56% of uninsured Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 have an unfavorable view of the law, up from 47% last month. The latest finding is a record high. Just 22% of the uninsured hold a favorable view of Obamacare.

 Uninsured Obamacare favorability

The Obama administration and groups supporting its agenda are trying to get as many people as they can to sign-up for health insurance coverage before the open enrollment period ends on March 31. Those who fail to purchase health insurance by March 31, 2014 will face a tax of $95 or 1% of their gross taxable income, whichever is greater. The individual mandate tax will increase to $695 or 2.5% of gross income by 2016.

Among the public at-large, 47% hold an unfavorable view of Obamacare, down marginally from last month, while 35% have a favorable view.

Obama brags about Obamacare enrollment numbers, Sebelius dismisses original estimate

In a speech to supporters yesterday in Washington, President Barack Obama touted the latest Obamacare enrollment numbers as he tried to rally them to continue efforts to promote the law as the final month of the open enrollment period approaches.

“We now have 4 million Americans who have signed up for quality private health insurance through the Marketplace exchanges,” President Obama said to applause from supporters. “Four million people have already signed up because of you. Four million. Four million. Four million.”

Though the number of Americans who have selected plans on the Obamacare exchanges has jumped after the disastrous two-month rollout, the Obama administration anticipated 5.65 million enrollments by the end of February and 7 million by the end of the six-month open enrollment period.

What’s more, the administration still hasn’t given any indiction as to how many people have actually paid a premium. The number President Obama is touting are Americans who have selected a health plan on the exchanges. The New York Times recently noted that around 20% of those who’ve selected a plan haven’t paid a premium.

Some administration officials are trying to downplay the original 7 million enrollment target. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, for example, spun the figure as a number produced by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the fiscal research arm of Congress.

Administration plans ad blitz during winter Olympics

Sochi 2014 -- Winter Olympics

The hundreds of millions of dollars already spent by the Obama Administration and outside groups to advertise Obamacare apparently wasn’t enough. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversaw the disastrous launch of the federal exchange website, is going to spend even more to push Obamacare during next month’s winter Olympic games, according to Politico:

The Obama administration is planning an Olympic-size ad blitz to push health coverage during the winter games next month.

HHS confirmed Tuesday that it has bought advertising time in markets with high rates of uninsured people to air during the Winter Olympics, which run Feb. 7-23.

To date, the administration has focused its outreach efforts in areas around Houston, Dallas, Tampa and Miami, dispatching senior officials like HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to spread the word about new benefits under Obamacare.

The ads, which will run in markets like these across the country, will be aimed at young uninsured people and their families, an HHS official confirmed. POLITICO also confirmed that ads will run in North Carolina. According to HHS, ratings for typical primetime and sports programming dip during the Olympics, so the administration moved some of its paid media budget to the NBC Olympic inventory to maximize viewership.

No word on the images that might be used along with the usual messaging, although high-injury events such as the giant slalom or snowboarding offer immediate visuals to underscore the risk of going without health insurance.


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