Tuesday, during House hearings on the troubled Obamacare website, lawmakers were stunned to learn that a crucial system for making payments to insurers from people who enroll is yet to be built.
Obama tech guru Henry Chao shocked Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and others when he said - under questioning before a House subcommittee - that Americans can’t actually pay for their policies on the site and that the HealthCare.gov website remains 30 to 40 percent incomplete, according to a CNBC report.
"We still need to build the payments system to make the payments [to insurance companies] in January," testified Chao, deputy chief information officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that operates HealthCare.gov.
That crucial Obamacare website tool was initially suppose to be a serviceable function of HealthCare.gov when it launched Oct. 1, but its development was put off while an army of technicians overhauled the consumer interface part of the site. The payment tool was supposed to transmit federal premium subsidies for “qualified” enrollees.
Numerous software bugs on HealthCare.gov have prevented individual insurance company websites and web brokers, including ehealthinsurance.com, getinsured.com and GoHealthInsurance.com, from interfacing with the federal site. The system failures postponed development of the payment tool that was supposed to verify applicant's subsidy eligibility.
EHealth spokesman Nate Purpura said, "We are still in the process of confirming that the fixes have been made that will provide a stable and consumer-friendly user experience. Once we have more information, we can provide further comment."
Chini Krishnan, CEO of GetInsured, said, "We are close to completing this lap."
However the payment system that would allow insurers to be paid by their insured via HealthCare.gov is still unavailable, and for an indefinite period of time.
Meanwhile CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille, in a committee conference call after Chao's testimony, would not give a date by which the site's insurer payments tool would be up and running, saying it "will come online over time."