“What the hell is this, a joke?”

3/26/14
 
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from The Wall Street Journal,
3/26/14:

New Flexibility for Some Applicants Could Hurt Companies’ Ability to Set 2015 Rates.

The Obama administration’s decision to let some consumers enroll in health plans beyond Monday’s deadline sparked concern among insurers and prompted fresh attacks from opponents of the health law.

A surge of consumers is expected to hit HealthCare.gov before Monday’s deadline to sign up for insurance and avoid a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. In the past, heavy traffic has stalled the federal site.

On Wednesday, U.S. officials said consumers who say they began trying to sign up for health coverage by Monday’s deadline will be allowed to continue after that date and won’t face penalties for remaining uninsured.

Starting Tuesday, visitors to the site will see a sign saying open enrollment was generally closed, but that people who attested to trying to get into the system earlier would be able to proceed with an application.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the site, offered no deadline for how long consumers who were “in line” on March 31 will have to complete their application, or descriptions of what would count as being “in line.”

Insurers fear that past-deadline enrollees could complicate efforts to calculate premiums for next year, which will be filed with regulators from this spring. Health plans want to know who has signed up this year and their medical needs, so they can gauge what to charge in 2015.

“The more information that’s coming in that we can’t use for our [rate] filing because of the time frame, the less accurate and predictive we will be,” said Patrick Getzen, chief actuary at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Insurers have also pushed for enrollment periods to be tightly restricted, to avoid the prospect of healthy people waiting until they have an accident or illness to obtain coverage now that health plans can no longer bar people based on their medical condition. “The special enrollment period needs to be limited to a clear period of time,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group.

The government’s description of its plan to allow some consumers to sign up past the deadline vexed the law’s opponents.

“The administration is now resorting to an honor system to enforce” the law, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said Wednesday. “What the hell is this, a joke?”

Enrollment counselors still are grappling with people who tried to sign up weeks or months ago but became stuck because their income, family or immigration statuses are proving difficult to assess.

On Monday and Tuesday, the site processed more than 100,000 enrollments each day, said one person. The site has been averaging about 40,000 simultaneous users, up from about 20,000 users two weeks ago, said the person.

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