ObamaCare Enrollment Opens Today in Spite of Continuing Concerns

Millions of Americans will begin enrolling in insurance today through online exchanges that were created to support the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare.  However, concerns still linger about if the exchanges and the infrastructure designed to get over an estimated 15 million enrolled in coverage are ready for the two-week enrollment period.

Federal and State Exchanges Take Shape

ObamaCare established a federal exchange and gave states the right to create their own exchanges.  Each exchange will offer five tiers of insurance coverage to residents.  Residents can elect to purchase insurance from the plans available through the exchange or through their employer if available.  For most people, if they elect not to obtain insurance coverage, the Act will require that they pay a tax penalty.

Twenty-six states have elected to let their residents use the federal exchange.  The remaining states and the District of Columbia have chose to create their own exchanges or are using a combination of the federal and their own exchanges.

Although the federal and state insurance exchanges are designed to provide hundreds of insurance coverage options to those who do not otherwise have health insurance, tests in the weeks and months leading up to today have raised concerns that the insurance premiums for coverage are not being calculated accurately through online portals.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which has the task of cleaning up those issues, believes that it now has the problems resolved.

“Throughout months of testing we have worked with insurers to ensure that their plan information displays correctly online when we go live,” noted a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services.  “And we have fully addressed issues as they’ve been raised. We are confident that on October 1, consumers will see accurate premium costs.”

However, Gary Cohen, a Medicare and Medicaid official who addressed a House committee last month concerning the launched, conceded that “we may encounter some bumps when open enrollment begins but we’ll solve them.”

Counting the Cost of ObamaCare Proving to be Difficult

The Obama administration passed the Affordable Care Act with the promise of providing every American affordable insurance coverage.  In an effort to make insurance coverage affordable, many Americans qualify for subsidies in the form of tax credits to help offset the insurance costs.

However, several states have noted recently that their online exchanges are not calculating the final cost of insurance accurately when considering tax credits.

In addition, there are still concerns about the cost inconsistency of insurance to many under ObamaCare.  Many individuals will actually have to pay more for insurance in the coming year under the Act than in the previous year.

California noted the average cost of insurance will increase almost 15 percent.  However, those in New York will see an almost 30 percent drop in the cost of insurance premiums as private companies make competitive plans available.

Insurance Fraud an Increasing Concern

Another concern with the number of new entities involved in healthcare is one of privacy.  Insurance fraud has steadily risen over the previous decade, as personal information is misused to obtain medical benefits for uncovered individuals.

With the creation of numerous exchanges to support the Act, individuals will be giving their personal information to many additional agencies.  Given the speed with which the federal and state governments had to create the exchange agencies, it is unclear if those agencies have provided staff sufficient training on how to protect the Social Security Numbers and other personal information they will soon have for millions of people.

Representatives for the Department of Health and Human Services have indicated staff at the exchanges will undergo training and will face severe penalties in the event they mishandle or use the personal information for fraudulent purposes.

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.