Despite recent assurances to the contrary, the federal Obamacare exchange is still not transmitting the correct information to insurance companies, personal information is still at great risk – an even people who've applied may not have coverage to see a doctor come Jan. 1.
Furthermore, the administration is now strongly urging insurance companies to provide coverage for people who have enrolled, even if they have paid none or only some of their first month's premium.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to stress that the widely reported technical problems with Healthcare.gov were largely a thing of the past when asked if people would actually have coverage by the New Year.
"What I can tell you is that we are working overtime to make sure that every 834 form is accurate when it goes to the issues at the back end problems that existed. I think you've seen a lot of reporting on how those back-end issues have been addressed and continue to be addressed," Carney said.
Galen Institute President Grace-Marie Turner rejected the notion that the problems getting accurate information to insurers are now solved.
She said, "He's talking in gobbledygook. How on earth are the American people, who are desperate about losing their health insurance, going to understand that answer?"
Turner testified earlier this month before the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee. She and the other panelists discussed the possibility of patients thinking they had coverage come January but not actually being insured because of the data problems.
"One member asked me, 'What are the chances that's going to happen to somebody?' I said 100 percent. There are going to be people who think that they are covered. People who have filled out paper applications, there is no way that it's physically possible to get those paper applications through the website and approved to get people to pay so that they are covered as of Jan. 1," Turner said.
She also said the problem stems from major technical holes in Healthcare.gov.
"The part of the website where you check out and you put in your credit card information and you actually pay for what you have selected, that part of the site isn't built yet. So insurance companies are having to bill directly and find the people. The forms are not accurate and don't have all the information they need. They're having to call individuals to try to get the information they need if they know who they are," Turner said.
Some state exchanges are working better, but Oregon's has not enrolled a single person. The District of Columbia exchange, where many congressional staffers are forced to enroll, has been found to withdraw two months worth of premiums from some bank accounts.
As a result of these many problems, the Obama administration is strongly urging insurance companies to provide coverage for patients, even if they have received no payments.
"It's just outrageous," Turner said. "It is exactly like telling Amazon that if somebody has something in their shopping cart and they haven't pressed 'pay' yet, send it to them anyway. That's exactly what the administration is saying to the health insurance companies. 'Pay for this care and trust us. We'll pay you back later.'"
"Even worse, the HHS regulations that ordered this are basically saying to the health insurance companies, 'If you don't comply, we may not allow you to participate in the exchanges in 2015.' They could be kicked out if they don't give away health care for free," she said.
"It's crazy. The administration is just desperate, and it's doing desperate things because they have created such a mess."