There’s a bit more clarity around the number of people who have actually been able to get through the Healthcare.gov website in order to shop for coverage: 700,000.
U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Julie Bataille, director of the office of communications, said Thursday afternoon that this number combines data for state and federally-run exchanges and consists of people who completed their application, received their determination for a subsidy and can now shop for a health plan or be redirected to Medicaid. She said the actual enrollment numbers for the federal exchanges, which have been promised in November, are coming “soon.”
Acknowledging the problems plaguing the site for almost four weeks now, she attributed the causes to a “pent-up consumer demand” and “compressed timeframe” for system testing. “We’ve increased our bandwidth and we’re continuing this work,” she added.
Earlier Thursday, the two technology contractors in charge of the software and data components of the exchanges told lawmakers that “months” of integrated testing should have taken place, but CMS only allowed for two weeks.
“Due to a compressed timeframe, the system wasn’t tested enough,” Bataille said on a call with reporters. “What’s important to realize is that we are putting in place a much more robust performance testing system now, so that any fixes we identify and put in place now, we will be able to have a level of confidence that they’ll be able to work in the long term.” When asked why the timeframe was so short, Bataille said it was due to the “complexity of the system.”
Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president at CGI Group Inc., also told lawmakers at a Thursday hearing on Capitol Hill that she’s confident the software and system is improving every day “and people will be able to enroll by Dec. 15." Bataille confirmed that she shares that confidence and is sure people will be able to meet that deadline in order to receive Jan. 1 coverage. She also said that the process overall is a six-month enrollment period, and this is “only the beginning.”
CMS plans to release enrollment numbers for the federally run exchanges on monthly basis once initially released.
Bataille said there are more than 10,000 customer service representatives at the call center which is “another avenue” to enroll in coverage outside of the website.
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