Official dodges carrier confusion question News added by Benefits Pro on November 26, 2013
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By Allison Bell

Are some carriers confused by Obama administration exchange plan moves?

They may be, but a health care official suggested the administration is working with them, though he did not provide specifics.

The administration will engage in "close communication" with carriers, on top of the "extensive ongoing coordination" that has already been taking place between the Obama administration, state insurance regulators and health insurance companies.

Josh Earnest, a White House deputy press secretary, talked about how close the administration is to carriers and insurance regulators Sunday, during a press conference aboard Air Force One.

Earnest's answers came in response to a question about carrier confusion about the administration's decision to push the enrollment deadline for exchange coverage that starts Jan. 1 to Dec. 23, from Dec. 15. A reporter asked what the administration will do if carriers have trouble with the extended enrollment deadline. Earnest did not answer the question.

Julie Bataille, a CMS representative, said Monday during a separate CMS conference call with reporters that HealthCare.gov is working much better than it has been, and that it should soon be able to handle 50,000 users at a time, and about 800,000 visitors per day.

But Bataille said the system suffered a one-hour outage Monday and a slowdown Saturday.

The Obama administration has promised to get the site working by Dec. 1.

After Dec. 1, the site will work better, but users may still see some errors and short outages, Bataille said.

When the system is busy, the system will require excess users to wait before using the site, to keep heavy traffic from hurting system performance, Bataille said.

Bataille once again declined to answer questions about enrollment numbers or other site activity indicators. She said CMS will release an activity report in mid-December.

When a reporter asked about Web-based Small Business Health Options Program enrollment, Bataille noted that small businesses already can sign up for SHOP coverage with paper applications.

Bataille declined to say when small businesses will be able to set up plans using HealthCare.gov. "We'll have details for you soon," she said.

Some health insurance brokers have been using the problems at HealthCare.gov and some state exchange enrollment systems to build their own exchange plan sales.

GoHealth, the parent of the GoHealthInsurance.com, one of several companies that have agreed to work with the CMS-run exchanges as "Web broker entities," Monday reported that its own Web-based health insurance sales site has become the first to connect with the federal data hub.

The hub connection means that consumers who are eligible for subsidies can now skip HealthCare.gov entirely and apply for subsidized coverage through the GoHealthInsurance.com site, GoHealth said.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com
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