January 14, 2014

LAT’s Terhune Claims Obamacare’s Insurers, Not Govt. and Exchanges, Are ‘Under Fire’ For ‘Frustration and Fury’

Let’s see. We know, to name just a few of many impositions, that much of the enrollee information that HealthCare.gov and other exchanges have communicated to insurers has been erroneous, that insurers have had to deal with signing up hundreds of thousands of policyholders they originally cancelled, that deadlines for premium payments have been serially revised, and that there is no computerized subsidy payment system in place.

Yet Chad Terhune at the Los Angeles Times is irresponsibly steering gullible readers into believing that insurers are responsible for the Obamacare-related chaos and poor customer service, when it’s a virtual miracle that anyone is being served at all (HT Patterico; bolds and numbered tags are mine):

Insurers under fire as Obamacare kicks in
New policyholders are having trouble confirming coverage, obtaining ID numbers and getting care. (All three are directly traceable to exchange rollout failures. — Ed.)

ChadTerhuneLATwide

Obamacare’s biggest problem isn’t the troubled HealthCare.gov website anymore. [1]

Consumers are easing up on criticism of government exchanges and turning their frustration and fury toward some of the nation’s biggest health insurers. [2] All too often, new policyholders say, the companies can’t confirm coverage, won’t answer basic questions, and haven’t issued identification numbers needed to fill prescriptions or get medical care.

Day after day, people say, they contact insurance company call centers waiting hours at a time with no response. [3] Meantime, insurers have already taken many customers’ payments for coverage intended to take effect Jan. 1.

But without proof of insurance, patients are having to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket for medications and doctor visits, if they can afford it. Insurance agents say dismal service has become commonplace across many companies.

These industry problems pose the next major hurdle for what’s already been a flawed rollout for President Obama’s signature law. It could further sour public opinion on the overhaul and hamper enrollment efforts through March 31, when the first sign-up period ends. [4]

… Industry officials say the disastrous launch of the federal exchange and the ever-changing rules from the Obama administration have complicated their job and contributed to the backlog.

“Health plans have gone above and beyond to protect consumers from disruptions caused by the ongoing problems with HealthCare.gov” and some state exchanges, said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry group. “The last-minute changes to deadlines and rules have made the process more complicated and time-consuming.”

But some consumers think big insurers had plenty of opportunity to get ready.

“Insurance companies of this size should have been far better prepared. They knew it was coming,” said Katherine Kokko, 34, a public-health consultant in New Hampshire. [5]

Notes:

[1] — HealthCare.gov is still a security nightmare. IT experts and the government’s own security personnel have advised not using it. The site’s Spanish language efforts are a disgrace. Do I need to go on?

[2] — Translation: “I’m writing this sentence in the hope that consumers will ease up on criticism of government exchanges and turn more of their frustration and fury toward some of the nation’s biggest health insurers.”

[3] — The picture caption at Terhune’s story tells readers that “WellPoint, the nation’s second-largest health insurer and parent of Anthem Blue Cross, said it received more than 1 million customer calls over two days last week, equal to the amount it typically receives over an entire month.”

Seriously, Chad, how are you supposed to staff for a 10- or 15-fold increase in call volume? The government, with its bungling and incompetence, has dumped all over the insurance industry, but it’s the industry’s fault that chaos reigns. Horse manure.

[4] — Translation: “I sure hope that I can focuse sour public opinion and blame on the insurance industry for the pathetic results of the enrollment efforts.”

[5] — One would think that Ms. Kokko has been in hermetically sealed cave for 3-1/2 months to say what she’s quoted as saying.

Actually, according to her her LinkedIn profile, for the past four years she has been “working with local community leaders to facilitate the writing and updating of their emergency operations, hazard mitigation and pandemic response.” Her full background indicates no experience inside any insurance company’s operations. (Oh, but she has organized a “clean and green” program for New Hampshire nail salons, which is about the same as saying, “I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”)

So, as a “public-health consultant,” she appears to be no more qualified to whine that “They knew it was coming” than the average person. But Terhune tried to make her look like an expert.

What “they knew was coming” in early October were a lot of enrollments. Insurers certainly had no idea until perhaps mid-October how bad things might get, and if I recall correctly they were given false assurances by the federal government and the state exchanges that things would improve. Obviously, they mostly didn’t.

Sorry, folks, that’s not their fault — and it’s irresponsible for Chad Terhune to climb on a propaganda soapbox to try to convince his readers that it is.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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