Major technical problems are posing a hindrance to Obamacare open enrollment. People are finding it difficult to log into the health exchange websites which are slow loading, and even if they do, complain that their data is incorrect and that costs are too high. All this has interrupted Obamacare enrollment. A recent CBS News report says that the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) plans to reschedule the open enrollment period for November 15, 2014 to January 15, 2015 in place of October 15 to December 7, 2014 as previously scheduled. Consumers will benefit with an enrollment period that is a week longer and more time to learn about health care plans to help make the right decision. But this delay in open enrollment is bound to prove costly – premiums are likely to soar as the low-cost group comprising younger, healthier people may not buy coverage.
The basis of Obamacare was to get younger, healthier people to buy insurance so that the risk and cost of covering older people could be met. However, since the exchanges started functioning, far fewer people signed up than expected due to the technical hitches mentioned earlier. Now that Obamacare enrollment has been delayed, insurers point out that they will have to revise their rates higher as these had been set for 2014 on the assumption that all Americans would buy coverage in accordance with the individual mandate (have insurance starting 2014 or face a penalty).
The delay in the enrollment of the low-cost group – who will rarely use their plan – will make it difficult for insurers to provide coverage for older and sicker people. Now that the mandate has been delayed by one month, the risk pool comprises this older high-risk group and insurers say they have no way left but to hike premiums. Some industry experts say that smaller insurers may even leave the market on account of delay, which further increase prices. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the premium rates will rise 15% to 20% relative to the current health reform law.
As the premium rise, Obamacare will become too expensive for Americans, raising the costs of healthcare rather than making it more affordable as promised. People may resort to buying cheap insurance plans outside of the marketplace. Most of the cheap insurance policies available today do not cover mental health, brand-name drugs or pre-natal care unlike the Obamacare plans. Cheap plans are available only to healthy young adults with no pre-existing conditions. Moreover, people usually find out how limited coverage is when something bad happens.
According to a CBS News report, the Obama administration announced that around 106,185 people had bought insurance plans from the Obamacare marketplaces as of early November. This number is too low as the officials expected around 500,000 people would sign up for insurance plans in the first month. A surge in the number of enrollees cannot be expected even if the enrollment period is delayed by one month. If less people enroll, this will drastically affect the insurers and consumers as well.
On the supply side, physicians are finding it difficult to manage the changes in provider billing and payers’ claims processing rules under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With its focus on higher quality care, the ACA requires physicians to bill for the quality of care provided and not the volume of care. The ACA has changed their billing and reimbursement responsibilities. Medical billing companies should focus on communicating closely with payers to minimize the burden on their clients by helping with electronic claims processing changes. In addition to the transition to ICD-10 diagnosis and treatment, a medical billing company can help physician practices manage their ACA requirements.