Latest Frustrations with Insurance Exchanges

Insurance exchanges aren't off to a great start and now all the issues might not be fixed until well into December, according to federal contractors.

The Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges aren't off to a great start. Since the exchanges opened three weeks ago, the systems have been plagued with glitches, the representatives aren’t always accurate with help and even the president expressed frustration with his own project.

On Monday, President Barack Obama spoke in the Rose Garden and declared that “nobody is madder than me” about the many issues of Healthcare.gov.

According to a new report by The New York Times, federal contractors have identified most of the main problems that have been troubling the online exchange. However, the bad news is that it could take weeks until the system is operating smoothly. According to the Times:

“Some specialists working on the project said the online system required such extensive repairs that it might not operate smoothly until after the Dec. 15 deadline for people to sign up for coverage starting in January, although that view is not universally shared.”

In addition to login problems, contractors might need to rewrite as many as five million lines of code, plus, software from multiple companies needs to work together in the complex system.

A survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that nearly half of Americans say the online insurance exchanges are not working well. While awareness of the exchanges has increased over the last month (from 51% to 65%), only 14% of adults reported having visited an exchange.

According to the Pew data, it seems that Americans are very aware of the issues the exchanges have experience, even if they didn’t actually run into any. More than half (56%) of those who visited an exchange site say overall the exchanges aren’t working well, yet the same percent say they personally found the site to be very or fairly easy to use. However, 40% did say the site was difficult to use.

At the same time, people who think they are already insured may find out that is no longer the case — thousands of cancellation notices are going out to individual policy holders, according to Kaiser Health News. Florida Blue is cancelling 300,000 policies, or 80% of the insurer’s individual policies in the Sunshine State.

Despite Obama’s promise that people can keep their plans if they like them, that is not always the case. Mainly these health plans being cancelled fall short of what the ACA requires beginning on Jan. 1. Under the ACA, plans must provide 10 “essential benefits” such as maternity care, better preventive care and improved prescription coverage, plus copays and other out-of-pocket costs must be limited.

However, some are cancelling plans to people with pre-existing medical conditions, according to Kaiser.

Jerry Flanagan, an attorney with the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, told Kaiser that insurers may be targeting the most costly enrollees and pushing them into the exchanges so they can “purge their systems.”

However, according to Kaiser:

“By all accounts, the new policies will offer consumers better coverage, in some cases, for comparable cost — especially after the inclusion of federal subsidies for those who qualify.”