NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Next Headache from Obamacare

October 29, 2013

A new phase of the Obamacare launch is coming, this one involving Medicaid. And it could be déjà vu all over again, says Kyle Cheney, reporting for Politico.

  • On Nov. 1, the health law's malfunctioning enrollment system is supposed to send reams of data to states so they can begin placing thousands of people into Medicaid.
  • But state officials say that transfer system has barely been tested and could be vulnerable to technical failures like those that have crippled the broader Obamacare sign-up process.

"We're flying blind on what the process is," said Kathleen Nolan, state policy head of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. "There hasn't been the capacity to do a lot of the testing. ... There's a natural concern that with a major load of data to be sent all at once - there is concern that what has been tested may not be able to handle the volume."

Nolan said some people managed to sign up on the flawed website only to be told to reach out to their local Medicaid agencies to finalize enrollment. But the local Medicaid offices can't confirm anything because the applications haven't been transferred.

"People are getting a little confused," Nolan said.

Dennis Smith, a conservative health care consultant who has worked on Medicaid for former President George W. Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and The Heritage Foundation, predicted delay, although he doesn't expect a flood of applications.

He said states will be so concerned about the accuracy of the files after all the problems with the federal portal that there will be "a lot of double-checking."   He worries that further delay could leave some people without coverage on Jan. 1 because states can take up to 45 days to review applications.

There is a potential workaround. Smith noted that people can also sign up for Medicaid directly through the state. That could ease pressure on the federal enrollment system in the short run, he said.

But aside from that, state Medicaid programs can't do much to prepare for Nov. 1 other than wait for the federal government to hit the "on" switch, said Nolan. There's no Plan B if things go awry.

Source: Kyle Cheney, "Medicaid Could be the Next Headache for Obamacare," Politico, October 24, 2013.


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