Officials admit potential O-Care problems

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Administration officials acknowledged Tuesday some people will have problems when their new plans under ObamaCare begin Wednesday, but said they are working closely with insurers to minimize difficulties.

Wednesday is a major milestone for the law, as new plans bought through the exchanges before Dec. 24 will go into effect. 

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The White House on Tuesday said it had worked closely with the insurance industry to ready for the important date. 

White House adviser Phil Schiliro on Tuesday said the administration knows insurers will be in the spotlight and has set up a toll-free number to help consumers.

"We don't want anybody to have problems, but we know some people will," he said on MSNBC.

The toll-free number, 1-800-318-2596, will be available around the clock for people to call, if there are problems with their new insurance. 

“If anyone's having problems tomorrow, if they go to a pharmacy, if they go to a hospital, there's no record, they should call that number,” Schiliro said. “The insurer can call that number. We'll be able to determine in five minutes whether or not they are properly enrolled.”

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokesperson Julie Bataille said 10,000 trained agents will be answering calls to the toll-free number Wednesday. She said the administration had also coordinated call center scripts with insurers.

One of the potential problems with the new plans is that in October and November, 1 in 4 enrollments transmitted faulty data to insurers on the so-called 834 forms, according to the administration. Bataille said Tuesday that since the beginning of December, the number of missing 834s has been “close to zero.”

Schiliro emphasized that, if there is a problem with someone’s insurance because of problems with the data transmission when they enrolled, insurers and the administration have contacted them to fix the problem.

“They've been contacted by the federal government; they've been contacted by the insurers, in some cases two or three times,” Schiliro said. “So we've done everything we can to let people know that there could be a problem, and we're working with the insurers to make sure we can smooth out those difficulties tomorrow.” 

Insurers now have all of the data for people who have enrolled through HealthCare.gov, according to Bataille, who also stressed that if there is a problem in the data, the consumers are being contacted.

Separately, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius provided updated enrollment numbers for the healthcare law on Tuesday during a conference call with reporters.

She said that as of Dec. 28, 2.1 million people had enrolled in private insurance through the exchanges, about half of those through the federal exchange. 

Bataille said the administration is still working and is currently unable to say how many of the 2.1 million had previously been uninsured and how many had canceled plans. 

Sebelius said that another 3.9 million people were determined eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program in October and November, but that “some” of those were renewals of previous coverage.

“We think this is just a terrific day with the new enrollment numbers, with the cooperation we're getting with insurers, and now we have to work very hard to make sure the next few days go well,” Schiliro said.