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Report: Obamacare website can't fix application errors

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Thousands of Americans have been unable to correct errors in their Obamacare enrollment, according to a new report, highlighting an additional flaw in the rollout of the law's insurance exchanges.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that approximately 22,000 Americans who discovered mistakes in the enrollment process have filed appeals with the federal government to correct those errors. Among those mistakes are claims they were wrongly denied coverage, overcharged or placed in the wrong insurance plan.

The Post, which obtained the figures from internal documents, said those appeals have been saved on a federal computer. Those who have called Health and Human Services for help in fixing the application errors have been told that the healthcare.gov computer system does not currently allow changes to be made.

“Of the millions who have applied for coverage, only around 22,000 asked for help by filing an appeal and we are going to get them help,” said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “So we are talking about a small percentage of people who have filed an appeal. We believe many of the issues that caused people to file appeals are left over from when the site was not working well, and many of those problems have since been fixed.

“CMS has been reaching out to people who have filed an appeal [via phone and email], and so far have seen that many of the problems were related to these earlier system errors that have been fixed,” he added. “In many cases, they’ve been able to help these consumers move forward with a new application, and without having to continue with their appeal.”

According to the Post report, there is no timeline for when the appeals process will be fixed, and sources familiar with the issue told the paper that it is not a priority, with other more pressing problems with the online exchanges being addressed first.

The system was supposed to allow for appeals to be filed via phone, electronically or regular mail, but thus far consumers are only able to begin the process by completing and mailing in a 7-page form.

The Post said the submitted forms are scanned and entered into a computer, but that no further work has been done, since the system that would allow health workers to handle the claims is unfinished.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that CMS was working to help consumers who had filed appeals and said only a small percentage of Obamacare enrollees were affected.

“CMS is reaching out to consumers,” said Carney, adding that “a lot of the problems here are related to earlier system errors.”

In every instance they are reaching out and making sure that every individual and family that is part of this appeals process is being taken care of,” Carney added.

The problems are the latest to plague the online insurance marketplace that was launched in October. Healthcare.gov initially was riddled with numerous technical issues leading to decreased enrollment and a public relations disaster for the administration.

Enrollment numbers have grown after a “tech surge” to repair the website, but the administration is still behind their target of signing up 7 million consumers by the end of March. The enrollment data also shows a shortage of young, healthy consumers who are needed to offset older, sicker enrollees.

The administration instituted numerous delays to help Americans register ahead of key deadlines at the end of 2013, including pressuring insurers to extend the time period for accepting premium payments. Insurers, though, have warned that continued back-end problems with the website could also slow some enrollees from receiving coverage.

On Sunday, in an interview before the Super Bowl, President Obama defended his signature domestic achievement and said that the website was now “working the way it's supposed to.”

This story was published at 12:21 p.m. and has been updated.

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