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Nation/World

July 2, 2014

Report: Health law sign-ups dogged by data flaws

WASHINGTON — Many of the 8 million Americans signed up under the new health care law now have to clear up questions about their personal information that could affect their coverage.

A government watchdog said Tuesday the Obama administration faces a huge task resolving these “inconsistencies” and in some cases didn’t follow its own procedures for verifying eligibility.

Two reports from the Health and Human Services inspector general marked the first independent look at a festering behind-the-scenes issue that could turn into another health law headache for the White House.

The inspector general found that key personal details submitted by many consumers — such as annual income and citizenship — do not match records the government has on file.

It also found shortcomings in the internal safeguards used by the federal insurance exchange and some state marketplaces to check the accuracy of consumer information.

Those personal details are critical because they determine whether an individual is eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, as well as subsidies for monthly premiums.

Digging out from under the data problem is one of the top challenges facing newly installed HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

The administration says it is doing just that. Spokesman Aaron Albright said more than 425,000 inconsistencies have been resolved so far, more than 90 percent of those in favor of the consumer. The administration is hoping to clear up the majority of cases this summer but may have to resort to an extension allowed under the health law.

The inspector general found that the federal insurance exchange reported a total of 2.9 million inconsistencies with consumer data from Oct. 1, 2013, through Feb. 23 of this year.

At the time, the administration had limited technical capability that would have let officials resolve roughly 330,000 of those cases. Only about 10,000 were actually cleared up within the period. Albright said the situation is much improved.

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