Tech and funding problems plague Obamacare enrollment system

Posted Oct 2, 2017 by Ken Hanly
Open enrollment in Obamacare (ACA) is just about a month from now. However, the White House is cutting back on funding but also those states who use the federal market place are facing technical difficulties.
A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare...
A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the website in New York
With permission by Reuters / Mike Segar
Non-profit groups, workers who receive federal funding and state health workers, all of whom advise consumers or organize educational events about getting coverage, must first complete a mandatory certification course. There are technical problems with the training that has always involved software that is not very user-friendly and often involves bugs.
However, it is said to be worse this year as they are receiving no help from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which are tasked to support them. Randal Serr, director of Take Care Utah said: “It used to be … you got the impression they were trying to help you. Now it seems, passively, this is not their priority.” Serr claims he personally has experienced the lack of response to complaints about technical issues. Many complain that there are repeated error messages. After sections are completed there is often lost or unsaved work.
Shelli Quenga, director of programs for the Palmetto Project in South Carolina had her federal grant cut by more than 50 percent. She complained that software problems were happening more frequently than in the past. It can take weeks before issues are resolved, longer than she ever experienced in previous years. However, others reported that their situation seemed to be no different than in previous years.
Daniel Bouton who works in a marketplace program in Dallas Texas saw a larger pattern in the funding cuts and tech problems, and worries that many consumers will have problems accessing information about their insurance options.
Bouton said: “Local organizations are feeling the cut on funding. Then you move to, ‘OK, I’m not going to have enough funds for a strong marketing campaign. I’ll utilize my navigators, and go back to grass roots, and do door-to-door marketing.’ But then you go back to, ‘I can’t send my navigators out because they’re not certified. I have this feeling of having our hands tied.”
These problems are arising as enrollment starts on November 1 and will last only six weeks rather than the three months of previous seasons. The government website will for the first time shut down its website during most Sundays of the enrollment period. With all the Republican attempts to replace Obamacare, some consumers are not even sure that the ACA is still in effect, nor are many aware that the enrollment period is shorter. Quenga noted: “People need that in-person assistance to understand the subtleties and nuances of a very complicated system. You’re cutting these people off at the knees.”
The Trump administration clearly wants to destroy Obamacare. At the same time, this will mean that many people will not get the health care insurance they need and deserve. Andy Slavitt, former head of Medicare and Medicaid under Obama, tweeted Friday: “Trump decided not to inform people of ACA open enrollment in order to sink it. That's not the only option. RT here if you will help spread.” "
The sabotage is acknowledged by the announcement by the Trump administration Department of Health and Human Services that it will slash funding for Obamacare outreach programs. Funding will be cut from $100 million last year to just $10 million this year. Trump officials also announced that they would be cutting by 41 percent funding for those outside organizations the navigators who help people sign up or enroll in the ObamaCare exchanges.
The Republicans failed again this week to pass their own health care bill as shown on the appended video.