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About 25 percent of HealthCare.gov applications have errors

CMS is working with insurance providers to identify applications with problems, an official says

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An estimated one in four user applications sent from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' HealthCare.gov to insurance providers have errors introduced by the website, including missing applications, an official with the agency said Friday.

The HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is working with insurance providers to fix the errors, said Julie Bataille, communications director for CMS. On Jan. 1, many of the people who applied for insurance coverage through HealthCare.gov will be eligible for coverage.

The 25 percent error rate in so-called 834 transmissions is a "preliminary" estimate of the website's performance between its launch Oct. 1 and Nov. 30, Bataille said during a press briefing.

The errors include missing forms, duplicate forms and incorrect information in the applications, such as wrong information about an applicant's marital status, she said.

While the software bugs leading to the 834 errors have largely been fixed, as many as 10 percent of insurance applications may still have errors, Bataille said.

Consumers who have used HealthCare.gov to buy insurance and have concerns that their applications haven't been processed or have errors should contact their insurers, Bataille said. Consumers should already be in contact with their insurers to pay their premiums and get general information about their plans, she said.

"Our ultimate goal is clearly to make sure that those individuals who believe they have enrolled in coverage are able to successfully complete that process and have the coverage they want and need by Jan. 1," Bataille said.

CMS is engaged in an "intensive process" with insurance providers to find the application errors, she added. CMS is hosting daily phone calls and webinars with insurers to fix problems, "to ensure that anyone seeking coverage will know their enrollment is confirmed," she said.

HealthCare.gov is a central piece of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. The law's goal is to allow U.S. residents without health insurance coverage to purchase inexpensive plans through the site or by other means.

The website experienced major problems in the weeks following its launch, with frequent site crashes, page errors and eight-second page loads.

The site performed well this week, Bataille said. The site had no unscheduled down time and its page error rate was .77 percent, about the same as the past few weeks. Page load times were below one second.

Between midnight Sunday morning and noon Friday Eastern time, HealthCare.gov had 3.7 million visitors, she said. During this week at times of heavy traffic, the site twice deployed a customer queuing system that allows users to leave their email addresses and have the site contact them for a better time to come back.

Ninety-three percent of users who left their email addresses came back at a later time, Bataille said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.



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