Hill staffers warned not to rely on info from ObamaCare exchange

Capitol Hill staffers who signed up for ObamaCare through the District’s exchange are being told to confirm their enrollments in person.

An email from the Senate Disbursing Office, obtained by The Hill, warns Capitol Hill staffers they shouldn’t trust the information provided to them by the DC Health Link (DCHL) site.

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“It is essential that you confirm your coverage in DCHL through the Disbursing Office,” the email reads.

“Please do not assume you are covered unless you have seen the confirmation letter from the Disbursing Office.”

The warning adds another ObamaCare headache for staffers and lawmakers, who raced this week to sign up on the exchanges to meet the Dec. 9 deadline for having coverage in 2014.

It also underscores a broader challenge facing the online exchanges. 

While the administration claims to have met its goal of having HealthCare.gov running smoother for most consumers, back-end problems with the system persist.

That has lawmakers worried individuals who believe they’ve purchased a plan under ObamaCare will discover they never actually enrolled because of a system error.

 “Who is going to guarantee that the doctor that sees a patient on Jan. 4 is actually covered for that visit?” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Under pressure from media outlets, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last week revealed that up to 25 percent of enrollment transmissions sent from HealthCare.gov to insurers were either garbled or contained bad data.

Based on HHS enrollment figures released Wednesday, upward of 30,000 applications could need to be re-evaluated before the end of the year.

Sebelius says that the bad transmissions from the federal ObamaCare exchange are being reconciled manually.

“We are in the process of actually hand matching individuals to insurance companies,” she testified on Wednesday.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday that this “elbow grease” would take care of the problem.

Still, while Earnest said the administration was committed to making sure “information has been conveyed accurately and completely,” he stopped short of guaranteeing coverage to those affected by the transmission errors.

He also argued “the universe of people who could potentially be affected” by the problem “is relatively small,” because most consumers had trouble accessing HealthCare.gov in October and November.

The CMS says the error rate for the site has been reduced to about one in 10 since the end of November.

“The problems that we’ve had with the program were much worse very early on,” Earnest added.

Still, the administration is expecting millions to flood the exchanges in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 23 and March 31 deadlines, which, even at the current error rate, could create thousands of more documents that need to be reconciled in a short window of time.

The process represents the next hurdle for the administration, after it seemed to turn a corner with the fixes to the front-end of HealthCare.gov.

About 260,000 people picked out private health plans under ObamaCare, either through HealthCare.gov or one of the state exchanges in November, bringing the total number of enrollments to about 365,000, HHS announced on Wednesday.

November’s figures are an improvement over the 106,000 who picked out a plan in October.

In addition, the 110,000 who enrolled through HealthCare.gov in November marks a four-fold increase over the low tally of 27,000 in October.

But the administration is well behind its original goal of having 800,000 people signed up through the state and federal exchanges in the first two months.

Sebelius and other administration officials and contractors remain on the hot seat over the rollout, as members of both parties have demanded someone lose his or her job over the launch.

The secretary announced Wednesday that she ordered her department’s inspector general to investigate what went wrong.

“I believe strongly in the need for accountability and in the importance of being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Sebelius said in a blog post.

This story was originally posted at 2:31 p.m. and updated at 8:20 p.m.