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51 Online Insurance Exchanges Going Live in Oct May Cause Problems

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Now that many people are coming to the understanding of ObamaCare becoming a reality, there are a lot of people who are beginning to think of the technical errors that could occur in the long run when the exchanges become public. On October 1st, 51 online insurance exchanges are going to go live on the internet. In a worse case scenario, if too many people visit these exchange sites when they go public, it is very possible that the sites could completely crash. This would result computers freezing up and many finding that the sites are impossible to access on the opening day.

However, there are other concerns. One issue that some people fear is that there may be incidents of people signing up for insurance as other people in order to try to get a peek at the rates that are available or discover loopholes in the system. Credit bureau Experian is already working against this. The bureau claims that they will be checking the answers to prompts against external databases, which would include information from utility companies and banks based on people’s spending history and other history. Individuals might be asked about addresses that they previously lived at, the color of their car, and other identifiable information that most people wouldn’t be able to provide. The system would be similar to what is used to verify the identity for accessing personal Social Security information. If someone got a question wrong, they would be referred to Experian’s help desk. If that failed, then they may be asked to submit some documents to prove their identity.

Eligibility is another concern. To determine if the customer is eligible for federal subsidies to pay for the insurance, the exchange will be pinging the “federal data services hub”, which is currently being built by Quality Software Services Inc under a $58 million contract with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. If someone is a citizen and their income is less than four times of the federal poverty level, then they would be considered to be eligible for the government subsidies to pay for the rates of the insurance program. The query would arrive at the hub, which would not store information, and would be then routed to online services that are located at the IRS for income verification. There would also be information being pinged to the Department of Homeland Security for a citizenship check.

The answers will have to be returned quickly and in real time before the buyer would lose interest and log off on the site. If the reported income doesn’t match the IRS records, then the applicant may have to submit their pay stubs. These federal computer systems have never been connected to each other on this level before, however, so it’s unknown how well they will work together. "The challenge for states," said Jinnifer Wattum, director of Eligibility and Exchange Solutions at Xerox's government healthcare unit, is that they have to build "the interfaces needed with the federal data services hub without knowing what this system will look like."