Technical glitch bungles Medicaid enrollment for 25,000 Pennsylvania residents
The day before health insurance was set to kick in for millions of Americans under Obamacare, a new problem emerged on Tuesday that could leave thousands of Pennsylvanians without the government coverage they thought they had obtained through the troubled federal marketplace.
A technical glitch has prevented states from finalizing Medicaid coverage for some people who applied for insurance on the website that the federal government is operating for Pennsylvania and 35 other states, officials disclosed.
It is unclear how many people nationwide might be affected, but Gov. Tom Corbett's office put out a consumer alert that said at least 25,000 low-income Pennsylvanians who received confirmation on the website that they may be eligible for Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program coverage “may find out they were not enrolled as anticipated as of Jan. 1.”
The governor's office said residents could not be enrolled in the state health insurance programs because “states received incomplete records from the federal government.”
The problem is just the latest in a series of glitches since the website, HealthCare.gov, started on Oct. 1. Insurers had complained that they were having problems completing enrollments because they were getting garbled or incomplete electronic files from the government.
Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is in charge of HealthCare.gov, said the agency is continuing to work with state Medicaid programs “to ensure that our respective systems can talk to each other.”
But, she told reporters on a conference call, applicants on the website are “given an eligibility determination. .. They must complete their enrollment with each state” to qualify for Medicaid.
Leesa Allen, the state's executive Medicaid director, said that given the problems with the federal website, it would be faster for eligible Medicaid recipients to enroll directly with the state. But, she said, “the whole purpose of the file transfer was so that the recipient wouldn't have to do anything further.”
People who thought they were enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP and discover they are not will have their coverage retroactively started on Jan. 1, said Kait Gillis, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Welfare.
While 25,000 people who were eligible for Medicaid learned they could enroll in the program through HealthCare.gov, an estimated 500,000 still are waiting to find out whether they'll gain insurance through an alternative Medicaid expansion. Corbett has proposed buying private insurance for Pennsylvanians who fall into a gap in which they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to receive federal tax credits through HealthCare.gov.
Corbett would use federal Medicaid funds under his proposal, which is under consideration by the Department of Health and Human Services, and would not start until 2015.
Meanwhile, earlier problems with data transfers between the website and private insurers mostly have been fixed, Bataille said. “All the issuers have all the data for all the people who have selected plans on HealthCare.gov,” she said.
Bill Modoono, a spokesman with UPMC Health Plan, said the insurer is “only seeing very minor problems” with some of the transfers.
Federal officials also said Tuesday that about 2.1 million people will have medical coverage on Wednesday through the Affordable Care Act, after a late surge in enrollment helped regain ground lost to the botched debut of the insurance website.
More than 1.6 million Americans signed up through state and federal exchanges in December alone, according to calculations from data released during the conference call. The December tally is more than quadruple the first two months of the government's sign-up period.
The December surge provided a boost to President Obama, whose fumbling of the October rollout of the insurance exchanges initially thwarted the high participation needed to spread the costs of his health care expansion. The law is supposed to offer private coverage to as many as 7 million people by the end of March.
Critics contended that even with increased sign-ups in December, fewer Americans are insured overall as an estimated 4 million people had their existing health plans canceled because they did not meet more rigorous standards of Obamacare.
In Pennsylvania, for example, about 250,000 people received cancellation notices this fall. Many of them may have taken an option to renew their plans for another year.
Highmark Inc., the state's largest health insurer, has said it sent notices to 140,000 individual customers with an option to renew, and many did so. Another 40,000 members with canceled plans were auto-enrolled in a new plan by Highmark last week if they had not chosen a plan.
“Our belief is that most people who have gotten cancellation notices have already enrolled in a new plan or renewed their old plan,” Bataille said.
Bloomberg news service contributed to this report. Alex Nixon is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or email@example.com.
Add Alex Nixon to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- States clear way for startups to use crowdfunding
- U-PARC houses companies ranging from innovative to traditional
- Students walk shop class path to excellence
- Deported migrants find home at call centers
- States fight back against financial scams aimed at seniors
- Compelling cases exist for cashing out, staying in as stock market soars
- Lower your cable bill by streaming shows
- Gas drilling company withdraws application for forced pooling in Western Pennsylvania
- Government approves compromise on Corbett’s alternative Medicaid plan
- Healthy PA expands number of recipients but cuts benefits
- Trib 30 stock index gains 4.85% in August