The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Food & Health

July 2, 2014

Health law sign-ups dogged by data flaws

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Obama administration is struggling to resolve widespread data discrepancies that could call into question coverage for millions under the health overhaul, the government’s health care fraud watchdog reported Tuesday.

In a pair of reports, the Health and Human Services inspector general found that key personal details submitted by many consumers do not match up with records the government has on file.

It also found shortcomings in the internal safeguards used by the federal insurance exchange and some state marketplaces to check the accuracy of information submitted by consumers. That’s critically important, because it can affect an individual’s eligibility for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance.

The reports marked the first independent look at a festering behind-the-scenes issue that could turn into another health law headache for the White House.

The problem is one of the top challenges facing newly installed HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. The administration says it is making daily progress to clear the issues, and that may not be completely reflected in the reports.

The inspector general said the federal insurance exchange reported a total of 2.9 million so-called “inconsistencies” with consumer data from October through December 2013.

Officials had the technical capability to resolve roughly 330,000 of those cases, but only about 10,000 cases were actually closed during the period covered by the report.

Several states running their own insurance markets also were having problems clearing up data discrepancies.

Most of the issues dealt with citizenship and income information supplied by consumers that conflicted with what the federal government has on record, the report said.

President Barack Obama celebrated 8 million sign-ups as proof that technical problems which initially kept many consumers from enrolling had finally been overcome. It now turns out that some of those problems continued, only out of sight. The inspector general said the efforts of the administration and states to clear up the discrepancies were complicated by lingering computer issues.

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