The more than 20,000 Americans who want to appeal costly Obamacare errors make up “a very small percentage” of millions of enrollees, the White House says, but the Obama Administration nevertheless will “get them help.”
The responsible agency is “working to implement fully an automated appeals system,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday, a remark that commentator Charles Krauthammer and other critics found curious. The appeals process didn’t appear to be automated at all, they noted.
“It’s an absolute dead letter,” Krauthammer said last night on Fox’s “Special Report” of what happens to each filled-out appeals form. “It’s as if it went to the North Pole.”
The Washington Post on Sunday first disclosed that an estimated 22,000 Americans filed appeals because of errors that occurred when they applied for health coverage on HealthCare.gov, the government’s troubled website.
“The cynicism of this is unbelievable,” Krauthammer said of Carney’s comments, recalling how The Post story describes a rudimentary, unresponsive appeals process. “The numbers are immaterial, it’s the fact that these people are given a pretense of an appeal – and it goes to a computer [in Washington, D.C.] that can’t be accessed.”
In his daily briefing, Carney told reporters that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is responsible for implementing the national health care law, will get on top of the problem:
“CMS already is, and has been for some time, reaching out to people who have filed an appeal via phone and email,” Carney said. “CMS is also working to implement fully an automated appeals system. Until they have that functionality, we’ve put in place a manual review process — again, phone and email — wherever possible and expect hearings to begin soon on the appeals process.”
CMS didn’t confirm the number of appeals reported by The Post, but a spokesman told Reuters that most filed appeals are “largely related to earlier technology problems [on HealthCare.gov] that have since been fixed.” The spokesman declined to say how soon hearings would begin.
Analysts told the wire service that CMS needs to have a system in place before March 31, the end of the open enrollment period for obtaining health coverage through the Obamacare exchanges.
This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.