KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Administration Worried Over Paper Applications When Problems Persisted

A myriad of issues related to enrolling people in the health law's insurance marketplaces include new revelations that officials worried that allowing people to fill out paper applications for coverage on the federal marketplace would bring its own problems. Other issues examined include the roles of exchange call centers, "navigators," and other paid or volunteer workers.

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Obamacare Notes Show Worries About Pushing Paper Applications
Top health officials worried that encouraging people to fill out paper applications for insurance after they couldn't sign up through the troubled website wouldn't get them coverage any faster, but they gave in as the site's troubles persisted, internal meeting notes released Monday show (Radnofsky, 11/4).

CBS News: WH Docs: Paper Application For Obamacare Were Problematic, Too
While the Obama administration last month worked on resolving issues with, it had concerns that it was misleading consumers by suggesting they'd make more progress signing up for an Obamacare insurance plan with a paper application, documents recently turned over to Congress show. "The paper applications allow people to feel like they are moving forward in the process and provides another option; at the end of the day, we are all stuck in the same queue," the notes from an Obama administration meeting on Oct. 11 say. The notes were turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, one of the multiple congressional committees investigating the botched rollout and the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Condon, 11/4).

McClatchy: White House Defends Use Of Alternatives For HealthCare.Gov
The Obama administration on Monday defended its request that consumers frustrated with the malfunctioning website apply for coverage by phone after it emerged that customer service operators must still use the troubled website to assist callers. The issue flared up at Monday’s White House news briefing after ABC News reported that an Oct. 11 memo from the Department of Health and Human Services claimed that all applications -- whether submitted by phone, paper or online -- are processed through the website, which serves as the entry portal for the federal health insurance marketplace (Pugh and Kumar, 11/4).

Kaiser Health News: Call Centers Got Big Contracts From Health Law, But How Big Is Unclear
Before the Affordable Care Act was even open for enrollment, Viviana Alvarado was already taking calls from people who wanted to know more. She and about 40 of her colleagues are answering the phones for Maximus, the company Connecticut contracted to run its call center. The contractors running the troubled federal website have been under intense scrutiny in the past month, but those businesses aren’t the only ones being paid to roll out Obamacare (Cohen, 11/5).

The New York Times: For Uninsured, Clearing A Way To Enrollment
Known as "navigators" or "assisters," people like Ms. Cauley are going to work across the country, searching for the uninsured and walking them through the enrollment process. Under the Affordable Care Act, these trained, paid counselors typically work for community groups or government agencies, with a mandate to provide impartial guidance. Given the problems plaguing the federal online insurance exchange used by 36 states, the workers have become even more important in helping people understand their insurance options. But in Kentucky and some of the 13 other states that have their own exchanges, which in general are running more smoothly than the federal site, watching navigators on the job also provides the clearest view yet of how enrollment could work once the technical problems of are resolved (Goodnough, 11/4).

The San Jose Mercury News: Health Care Law’s Ground Game: Armies Of Paid Workers, Volunteers Fan Out Throughout State
Although media attention on the implementation of the health law has focused primarily on buggy websites that debuted on Oct. 1, a large part of the effort to enroll tens of millions of uninsured people is on display on neighborhood stoops and at health fairs, town hall meetings and cultural centers. The stakes are enormous because the success of the new health care law, officially the Affordable Care Act, depends greatly on its success in the nation's most populous state (Seipel, 11/4).

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