In an at times combative oversight subcommittee hearing in the House Energy & Commerce Committee today, a top official in charge of Obamacare’s implementation admitted the website’s automated payment is still being built.
“The automated process for payments is still being built, but we have a process in place that is working, and payments will be going out next week,” said Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The office is in charge of Obamacare’s federal health insurance exchanges.
After a disastrous launch that included crashes, volume issues, and other technical problems, Cohen asserted Obamacare’s website, Healthcare.gov, is more functional.
But the site’s payment portion system—which according to The Wall Street Journal will directly transfer federal subsidies that some Americans will get to insurance companies for their health plans—isn’t ready and Cohen would not offer an expected date of completion. Administration officials acknowledged in November that the payment system was only 30 percent to 40 percent completed at the time.
Despite that, the federal government is expected to send the first premium subsidy payments to insurers next week, Cohen said.
But he wasn’t able to say how many Americans have actually paid for their insurance plans. So far, Obamacare enrollment reports have only detailed how many Americans have selected plans in the federal and state-run exchanges.
“So we don’t know at this point how many people have actually paid for coverage,” Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) asked.
“That’s correct,” Cohen replied.
Earlier in the hearing, Cohen said the Administration’s user fee on health insurance premiums will not be enough to fund Obamacare’s federal exchange. “I don’t believe that fee will fully cover the cost of the federally facilitated marketplace,” he said, adding the agency would tap into resources within its own budget to make up shortfalls.