Health care sign up improves, but some states seek workarounds for tech issues

The process of enrolling in health care coverage appears to be going smoother, but problems persist for some state-run exchanges and consumers. Judy Woodruff gets an update Sarah Kliff of The Washington Post, who also discusses an effort by the GOP to put a spotlight on security issues facing HealthCare.gov.


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JUDY WOODRUFF: It's been just over a week since some Americans first started getting health insurance coverage through the new marketplaces.

The federal website and the government's enrollment efforts seem to be working substantially better, but there are still a fair share of questions and complications, including for some people eligible for Medicaid going online at HealthCare.gov. And there have been troubles for some of the state-created exchanges.

Sarah Kliff is following all this for The Washington Post.

And it's good to you have back with us.

SARAH KLIFF, The Washington Post: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Sarah, let's stipulate that things, as we said, do seem to be generally going better for the sign-up process. That's your understanding?

SARAH KLIFF: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But let's talk about, for example, people who are eligible for Medicaid, going on the federal Web site and some of them are having problems. Tell us about that.

SARAH KLIFF: The problem that they're having is their information isn't getting transmitted to the state. So they go on to HealthCare.gov, they find out they are eligible for Medicaid, they think they enrolled, but that information never makes its way to the state Medicaid office.

And this is due to some technology they had hoped would be ready not being ready in time. So what's happening instead is these state Medicaid offices making phone calls and telling people actually the fastest way to go get signed up is go to your state Medicaid office, that healthcare.gov isn't actually the best path to getting signed up right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, that what they are doing to try to rectify this?

SARAH KLIFF: Right. They are really trying to reach these people.

And we should mention it is a smaller subset of the Medicaid-eligible. We know that about 3.9 million have been found eligible for Medicaid. And we think this universe of people is about 100,000 people. So it's a subset, but they're trying to reach these people by phone calls and by letters to tell them go to your state office.

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Excuse me. Are they having success doing that?

SARAH KLIFF: We're still seeing that right now. They're still right in the middle of that outreach.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So let me ask you about the state exchanges. Some of the states have apparently had a smooth process, but then there are some states, Maryland, Oregon, among others, where there have been real problems. What are you learning about that?

SARAH KLIFF: We're seeing that some states that really wanted the Affordable Care Act to work, especially Maryland and Oregon, are two that you mentioned that have really had the most severe problems, who volunteered to build these exchanges, and just really couldn't get them off the ground.

So you're seeing a lot of work-arounds in those states. Oregon has really relied on paper applications. They have processed about 20,000 enrollments into private insurance largely on pen and paper. Maryland is looking at some emergency legislation to let people who tried to sign up, but ran into technical issues, still get those policies in January.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So it's -- essentially, it's a different story in every state?

SARAH KLIFF: It is, yes. You have seen one state, and it's nothing like other states. Washington next to Oregon, for example, is having a great experience and signing lots of people up.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Sarah, the other thing you were telling us is, is that now some people are signed up and are starting to actually take advantage of this coverage, you're turning your attention to what their experience is. Tell us about that.

SARAH KLIFF: Right.

So now that you have got about an estimated six million people signed up, the thing we want to know is, is that going well for them? Are they liking the coverage and the doctors and the co-pays that they're experiencing for the first time?

So, for the past three months, this has been a story about enrollment and technical glitches and getting signed up. Going forward, there will still be some of that, but it will also be a story about health care and doctors, and are people liking the products that they're buying through HealthCare.gov?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that is what you are just now able to start looking at?

SARAH KLIFF: Right. We are just getting a trickle of anecdotes right now. It will be a little while, about a year, until we learn the larger impact. We're starting to hear some stories of how it is going.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, everybody is impatient about how it is going.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: The last thing I want to ask you about, though, is what the Republicans are doing. And, of course, they have been trying repeatedly to overturn the law completely, but they're also trying other methods.

One of their -- the things they have rolled out this week is an effort to look at how secure the federal website is. Tell -- explain what they're trying to do.

SARAH KLIFF: Right.

They're definitely trying to put a spotlight on HealthCare.gov, and in light of all the technical issues that have raised concerns about the security of the site, since you do have people entering information like their address and their Social Security number.

One thing they will be voting on is an effort for more reporting about breaches to the Web site with the -- which the Obama administration said today they oppose this legislation, they think there is more than enough reporting. The White House does say they believe the site is secure, that there have been no breaches to speak of so far, and that they think it stands up to the security tests that they have put it through.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there any sense of how successful the Republicans are going to be? I mean, we know numbers are different in the House than in the Senate, but what is your sense of that?

SARAH KLIFF: Right.

It probably has better odds in the House than in the Senate, like most of the attacks on the Affordable Care Act. They tend to pass the -- pass through the House, but in the Senate run into difficulties. And the -- interestingly, the White House has said they oppose this legislation, but they didn't issue a veto threat, which would be the more aggressive step to take.

So, that was one interesting nuance in how the White House is reacting to this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I know will you keep watching it, and we will too.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sarah Kliff, thank you.

SARAH KLIFF: Thank you.