WASHINGTON – Roughly 10 percent of the enrollment forms the federal health insurance website submits to insurance companies include errors, an administration official said Friday, claiming progress on fixing a critical piece of the troubled online marketplace.
The error rate for the so-called 834 forms, which relay consumers' personal information to the insurance company they have selected, may have been as high as a quarter of all transactions in October and November, before a flurry of repairs to the HealthCare.gov website, said Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The problems with transmitting information from the website to insurers raise the prospect that some consumers who believe they are enrolled in coverage will discover that insurers have no record of their application. Insurers have seen various types of errors in the 834 transmissions, including garbled or incorrect information, duplicate forms and, in some cases, missing forms.
While the error rate has gotten better since fixes to the website were made in late November, the number of people enrolling also has increased, meaning that insurance companies are still receiving a large number of potentially problematic enrollment forms. The Obama administration has not yet released official enrollment totals for the days since the website improvement took effect, but one official said more than 50,000 people have enrolled over the last week.
That means as many as 5,000 applications may have errors. By contrast, just under 27,000 people enrolled in all of October.
HealthCare.gov is the main entrance portal for benefits under Obamacare for residents of 36 states. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia are using their own websites, most of which appear to work more smoothly than the federal site.
Bataille cautioned that officials have had trouble measuring the scope of the problems with that part of system and continue to work with insurers to get more precise estimates.
Officials have been under pressure to release more information about the glitch-ridden 834 forms. During a briefing for reporters, Bataille said officials were cross-referencing information with insurers to determine how many forms have been lost. Administration officials have been encouraging consumers to contact insurers directly if they believe there may be a problem with their applications.
Bataille said officials were pleased with other improvements to the website. Roughly 3.7 million people visited the website between Sunday and midday Friday, without any unscheduled crashes. A queuing system developed to handle overload kicked in twice during the week, telling 16,000 users to return to the site later. Bataille said 93 percent of those users returned.
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