June 5 2014
Patrice J. Lee
We reported recently that the government was doling out incorrect subsidies for healthcare because of inaccuracies with the applications of Americans who signed up for ObamaCare. Now, we have a clearer picture of how bad it is.
Two of the eight million Americans the Administration says signed up for ObamaCare submitted information that doesn’t match up with federal records. If unresolved it may jeopardize their coverage and the level of federal subsidies they receive. The numbers could be higher as the 2-million figure reflects only consumers who signed up through the federal website HealthCare.gov and call centers.
Most of the data discrepancies involved reportedly are on income, citizenship, and immigration status. As you can imagine, some applicants underreported their income in hopes of qualifying for a taxpayer-funded subsidy or a more generous subsidy. Others haven’t provided proof of their citizenship or legal status in this country. Both are perquisites for coverage and subsidies.
Health and Human Services revealed this back-log of unfinished applications in response to several congressional committees investigating the discrepancies.
AP first broke the story:
A huge new paperwork headache for the government could also be jeopardizing coverage for some of the millions of people who just got health insurance under President Barack Obama's law.
A government document provided to The Associated Press indicates that at least 2 million people enrolled for taxpayer-subsidized private health insurance have data discrepancies in their applications that, if unresolved, could affect what they pay for coverage, or even their legal right to benefits.
Ensuring that health care benefits are delivered accurately is a priority for HHS nominee Sylvia Mathews Burwell, whose confirmation as department secretary is before the Senate this week.
Responding to the document, administration officials expressed confidence that most of the discrepancies can be resolved over the summer. Nonetheless, the department has set up a system to "turn off" benefits for anyone who is found to be ineligible.
Because the subsidies are tax credits, the IRS can deduct any overpayments to a consumer from that taxpayer's refund the following year. Conversely, if the consumer got too small a credit, that person would be due a bigger refund.
Updated numbers provided by Bataille indicate that the total number of people affected remains about the same as reflected in the document. About 1.2 million have discrepancies related to income; 505,000 have issues with immigration data and 461,000 have conflicts related to citizenship information.
It’s a positive sign that for HHS nominee Sylvia Matthews Burwell, clearing up the inaccurate applications is a priority. Let’s hope that being honest about the number of Americans who actually enrolled in ObamaCare and have fully reconciled information is a priority for her future boss in the White House, but I doubt it.
The Administration has itself to blame for this. In its haste to launch healthcare.gov and other enrollment websites, the government never built tools to verify income and citizenship/immigration information collected online. Now, they have to play catch up.
The Obama Administration pulled out all of the stops to ram as many Americans through the application process for ObamaCare as the original March 31st deadline approached, with little care about whether those applicants actually qualified for coverage and subsidies.
ObamaCare navigators also likely played a role in creating this situation. As we reported, navigators were caught on tape advising applicants to defraud the government by underreporting their income. They had an incentive to get as many signups as possible. I wonder if any of them will be held accountable.
The President’s signature healthcare law has been an experiment in government expansion of power gone bad. The government lacks the full knowledge to execute such a complex system in one broad, sweep. Will we ever get an admission of their incompetence in this area? Don’t hold your breath.