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A tale of two months: The latest on the federal exchange

December 5, 2013

    Dan Diamond, Managing Editor

    Eight weeks after its bumpy debut, HealthCare.gov—the flagship website of the ACA's federal insurance exchanges—was formally relaunched. And the numbers are telling a different story this time.

    Original launch

    Oct. 1 - Oct. 2: Just 248 people (reportedly) signed up for health plans through the federal exchange.

    December relaunch

    Dec. 1 - Dec. 2: 29,000 people (again, reportedly) signed up.

    This week's surge follows on about 100,000 sign-ups across November, a source told Bloomberg. That's a significant uptick from the 27,000 people who signed up at HealthCare.gov across October.

    Insurers say they're pleased to see the surge in enrollment. But it isn't all good, they caution.

    Ongoing concerns with data files: After a rapid repair effort, it's clear that the front-end of the website is working much better. However, insurers remain concerned that ramping up enrollment will only exacerbate the site's unresolved back-end problems—some of the 834 forms they've received continue to contain inaccurate or incomplete data. (Sophie Novack at National Journal reports that about 33% of individuals who have signed up for health plans, although the White House has denied that number. A CMS spokesperson instead said that 80% of problems with 834 files stemmed from a single bug, which has since been fixed.)

    Questions facing insurer payments: Meanwhile, CMS still needs to finalize the part of HealthCare.gov that actually transfer subsidies to insurers for plans purchased through the site. A planned short-term workaround? Daniel Durham, vice president for policy and regulatory affairs at American's Health Insurance Plans, told Reuters that insurers will estimate how much they are owed and then submit that figure to the federal government. Once the site's payment mechanisms are completed, the government and the insurers will reconcile the estimates with actual payment.

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