An official from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Thursday told a Congressional panel that Americans shouldn’t expect this year’s Obamacare enrollment period to go smoothly, despite months of bad publicity about Healthcare.gov’s infamous rollout problems and hundreds of millions of dollars spent to correct them.
“It’s a bumpy process at time. We have committed people, but there will clearly be bumps,” Andy Slavitt, CMS Principal Deputy Administrator told the House Energy and Commerce Oversight subcommittee on Thursday.
Under questioning from Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Slavitt admitted the underpinnings of the Federal Obamacare website still aren’t completed – and that insurance companies are being subsidized at estimated rates because the “back end” of the website is still not live and able to spit out rates that reflect real-time values.
The Washington Free Beacon provided a transcript of the relevant portion of Burgess’ exchange with Slavitt:
REP. MICHAEL BURGESS: When this thing went live the back end part of the system was not built. Is it now built, available and ready to use? The part that pays providers?
ANDY SLAVITT: The part that pays the issuers, the issuers are getting paid today.
BURGESS: How about the doctors and hospitals?
SLAVITT: The doctors and hospitals get paid by the health plans not by the marketplace.
BURGESS: So the back end part of the system is up and fully functional?
SLAVITT: No. No No. The back end part of the system is going through continuous releases. Today we are paying the issuers at an estimated basis that would be a coming release this year where by the end of this year they’ll begin to get paid at a policy level basis and next year continued automation will occur to tie everything to do with the back end of CMS’ systems.
Slavitt’s attempt at lowering expectations for Obamacare in its second year coincides with the released of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that places the cost of last year’s botched launch at $840 million. That report places much of the blame on CMS bungling, as well as changes to the law that moved the goalposts even as the rollout loomed.
“In summary, we found that CMS undertook the development of Healthcare.gov and its related systems without effective planning or oversight practices, despite facing a number of challenges that increased both the level of risk and the need for effective oversight,” the GAO stated in prepared testimony.
“…New and changing requirements drove cost increases during the first year of development, while the complexity of the system and rework resulting from changing CMS decisions added to FFM [Federally Facilitated Marketplace] costs in the second year.”
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