Daily Briefing Blog

Five things you should know about the state of HealthCare.gov


Juliette Mullin, Editor

Every day brings new updates on the state of HealthCare.gov as teams of technical and policy experts work to get the troubled insurance exchange rollout back on track. Some of those updates are promising; others are less so. Here are five of the stories we've been tracking from the past week:

The website's failure rate is reportedly lower than 1%...

Jeffrey Zients—a former Office of Management and Budget leader who has tasked with leading the HealthCare.gov fixes—last week said that the website's error rate now is lower than 1% after weeks of fixes to the troubled website.

Although he admitted that engineers may find "additional glitches" as they finish fixing the site, Zients said he expects to have "the site working smoothly for the vast majority of users" by the end of the month.

…but up to 40% of the site still needs to be built.

But there's more to that story: Although the front-end aspects of the website are reportedly completed, Henry Chao—the Obama administration official who managed the technical development of the federal exchange—on Tuesday said much of the "back office" work remains unfinished.

Overall, Chao estimated his team has yet to finish 30% to 40% of the overall website. For example, developers continue to work on a system to send payments to insurers and a component that confirms the exchanges and insurers are receiving accurate, matching enrollment data.

Sebelius: Nov. 30 is not a 'magic' date

Also on Tuesday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned Americans that HHS's self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline to have HealthCare.gov fixed is "not a magic go, no go date."

Sebelius said, "We have some very specific things we know we need to complete by the 30th and that punch list is getting knocked out every week." However, she added, "We recognize that there will still be periodic spikes, glitches, whatever that people will experience."

Similarly, the White House on Monday said that the website would be considered a success if 80% of online visitors are able to purchase a health insurance plan. Press Secretary Jay Carney said that HealthCare.gov would be "vastly improved" on Dec. 1, but that one in five visitors to the site still will not be able to enroll in coverage because of:

  • Technical difficulties with the site;
  • Personal unfamiliarity with computers; or
  • Complex family situations.

Does the site have security problems?

Four technology experts on Tuesday said they do not believe the federal health insurance website currently is secure.

In their testimony before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, three of the experts said they would recommend shutting the website down until fixes have been made, while the fourth said he did not have enough information to make such a decision.

However, Chao says that the federal marketplace had met all security standards and that there were measures in place to continually identify and eliminate potential threats.

While we're waiting

As CMS works to fix the website, White House officials and insurers are debating several strategies to make it easier for U.S. residents who were planning to shop through the federal insurance exchange, the Wall Street Journal reports. The administration is specifically reviewing whether insurers should have a more direct role in assisting with enrollment.

Under current rules, insurers are allowed to enroll individuals who do not qualify for federal subsidies, but those who are eligible must go through the exchanges to be verified.

  • Want to know more about the state of HealthCare.gov? Check out our sister website, American Health Line.

A closer look at Medicaid expansion

Beyond the pledges: Where the states stand on Medicaid

Will the Medicaid expansion be smoother than the exchange rollout?

The Affordable Care Act's federally run exchange is supposed to start transferring Medicaid applications to state agencies next month, but officials warn the transfer system has hardly been tested, Politico's Kyle Cheney reports.

Republican governors split over ACA Medicaid expansion

Six Republican governors recently announced that their states will participate in the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, "highlighting a fissure" in GOP opposition to the reform law.

Which states would save money under ACA's Medicaid expansion?

If all states participated in the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, 12 states would pay between 4% and 7% more on the program over the next decade, while 10 states would spend less, a new report finds.

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