Healthcare.gov to be Overhauled

HealthCare.gov LogoThe Obama administration is planning a makeover of the healthcare.gov site.  On November 15, when the enrollment period for 2015 coverage begins, consumers will see a new homepage, visual design and have new tools to help them learn about the program, window-shop without registering and find local assistance to review options.  It will be optimized for use on mobile devices and run on Amazon.com’s cloud computing service.  While developing these new features, however, officials are still working on problems created during the first enrollment period - contractors are working through a backlog of 2 million consumers whose applications have discrepancies in reported income or immigration status when compared against the databases at the IRS and/or State Department.  This is largely a manual process.  The federal site covers 36 states.  Some 5.4 million people picked plans for 2014 via the site.  The launch in 2013 was rocky as the site suffered significant slowness and downtime.  The government responded by hiring new contractors to manage the site’s basic functions.

The biggest change, however, appears to be behind the scenes as the EIDM program - the software that people use to create accounts and log in to healthcare.gov and the reported source of many of the lockout problems from last fall - is replaced.  The apparently flawed program was slated to be replaced in the tense early days of healthcare.gov’s launch but it was decided that would have been too risky in the middle of the enrollment period so improvements were put in place to get the site through the enrollment period.  Replacing that software wholesale is a big part of the planned revamp.

CMS is also reporting that the exchange for small businesses created by the health law but delayed by technical problems will be launched November 15th.  However, it will likely launch without some functions - such as the ability for an employer to contribute different amounts for part and full time employees.    Other parts of the program also remain delayed including the system to funnel payments to plans providing coverage to individuals and families eligible for federal subsidies on their premiums.  The system was originally scheduled for launch in October 2013 which was moved to March 2014.  The government is now saying that it will be fully operational sometime in 2015.  In the meantime, plans are applying for subsidy payments by sending a spreadsheet to CMS.

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