D.C. Health Link: Online pricing feature on track for next month

Oct 25, 2013, 2:52pm EDT Updated: Oct 25, 2013, 4:53pm EDT

D.C. Health Link: Online pricing feature on track for next month

Ben Fischer

Staff Reporter- Washington Business Journal

The D.C. Health Link says its delayed online pricing feature is on track to be working by early November, which would allow more users to complete the entire insurance shopping process as originally envisioned by Obamacare.

Just before its Oct. 1 launch date, the District’s locally created exchange said it would not calculate final price quotes for customers who needed to check their Medicaid eligibility or inquire about available tax subsidies.

The software to verify eligibility generated errors in 15 percent of test cases, which led to the exchange launching without the pricing feature. It was a significant blow, because it meant that only people who were willing to forego premium help could actually complete the buying process.

Exchange spokesman Richard Sorian said the fixes are proceeding as planned. Meanwhile, experts are verifying subsidy and Medicaid eligibility through more traditional means.

Contractor IBM Curam was in charge of the eligibility system, but Sorian declined to answer questions about its performance.

"We have confidence in the product that’s going out to the public," Sorian said. "I don’t intend to comment on particular contractors."

Sorian said that people who have already signed up for an account and requested a final, offline price quote and invoice should receive them by early November.

Separately on Friday, the Obama administration said the federal healthcare.gov — which has been beset by technical challenges far more severe than those in D.C. and Maryland — will be fixed by late November.

"By the end of November, Healthcare.gov will work smoothly for the vast majority of users," said Jeffrey Zients, Obama’s appointee to fix the numerous problems with the site. "The healthcare.gov site is fixable. It will take a lot of work, and there are a lot of problems that need to be addressed."

For the moment, the delays in the exchanges is a technical one. But if widespread problems persist past late November, it could jeopardize the individual mandate — the component of the reform law that requires everybody to carry health insurance starting Jan. 1.

Ben Fischer covers health care and law.

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