Officials worried consumers would be unhappy with ObamaCare choices

Government contractors working on the rollout of ObamaCare voiced concern that once users were able to view the available policies for purchase on HealthCare.gov, they could be disappointed with the cost and options available.

The concerns were expressed in meeting notes from the ObamaCare "war room" released by the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday.

"In some cases, there will be fewer options than would be desired to promote consumer choice and an ideal shopping experience," the meeting notes read. "Additionally, in some cases there will be relatively high cost plans."

The discussion last week appeared to reveal a behind-the-scenes concern that broke from public assurances made by President Obama and other top administration officials.

According to CNN, the fretting was prompted by a New York Times report last week that those cost savings were harder to find in some rural areas because of reduced competition. In some 530 counties serviced by federal exchanges, only one health insurance company was offering coverage.

But the Department of Health and Human Services said the notes were made by contractors and did not represent "official agency positions."

"In the Marketplace, six in ten consumers qualifying for coverage options under $100," said DHS spokesperson Joanne Peters. "Nearly all consumers will have a choice of two or more health insurance issuers, and often many more."

Last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney downplayed the issues facing rural consumers.

"Nearly all consumers — about 95 percent — will have a choice of two or more health insurance issuers, often many more," he said. "And nearly all consumers — about 95 percent — live in states with average premiums below earlier estimates."

The White House spokesman said that for many consumers living in rural areas, a limited number of choices was nothing new. Carney said that the White House knew it couldn't "transform these markets overnight."

"The individual market has long been dominated by one or two carriers, particularly in rural areas," Carney said. "So this is a problem that significantly preexists the Affordable Care Act."

On Monday, Carney fought with ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl over questions about whether the White House deceived Americans with claims they could bypass the broken HealthCare.gov website by using the phone or mailing in an application.

A separate set of meeting notes showed that consumers who called the ObamaCare hotline or applied for insurance would still have their information eventually inputted through the glitchy HealthCare.gov, which has been plagued by technical problems since its launch on Oct. 1.

That prompted reporters to ask whether Obama had been deceptive when he said during his address in the Rose Garden that consumers could bypass the website by phoning a call center or sending in a paper application.

Carney said that the White House "never pretended" that the call centers wouldn't eventually route consumer information through the website. The point, he argued, was to shift the burden of waiting for the technical glitches to be ironed out from applicants to the government.

"In terms of the user experience, the whole point was to alleviate the frustration that so many Americans were having online and to take that frustration away from them and allow a live person at a call-in center to handle their questions and their sign-ups and their enrollment for them," Carney said. "So I know it's spoken in tones of dramatic revelation, but it was a known fact at the time."

 

This post was updated at 6:45 p.m.