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Thursday
Jan162014

House Votes To Force Obama Admin. To Release Exchange Data

Around noon today the House of Representatives approved H.R. 3362, the “Exchange Information Disclosure Act,” a bill authored by Representative Lee Terry (R-NE).  The vote was 259 to 154 with 33 Democrats joining 226 Republicans to vote aye.

 As I explore in both a National Policy Analysis and an article for The Federalist:

H.R. 3362 requires the Administration to release data on the number of unique website visits, the number of individuals who have “created an account” on HealthCare.gov versus those who have actually enrolled in a plan and how many people are actually paying their premiums.  It also mandates the release of data regarding how many people have had trouble logging on to HealthCare.gov, enrolling in coverage, or calculating their premium subsidy, and the amount of difficulty HHS has had transferring information on enrollees to insurers. The legislation also requires HHS to release such data on a weekly instead of the current monthly basis.

(Terry also added on to the bill with an admedment which can be seen here.)

The bill is needed because the Administration only releases data on the exchanges when it is politically convenient.  From my article:

Witness HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifying before Congress in late October and early November of 2013:

Both the October and November enrollment reports were released 11 days after the end of the reporting period.  According to Sebelius, this was to ensure that the data was reliable.   It was also so that HHS could deal with the “834 piece” that Sebelius mentioned in response to Senator Orrin Hatch’s question.  Known formally as an “834 EDI Transmission,” it is an electronic file that HHS must send to insurance companies to let them know that a person has enrolled in one of their health plans through the exchange.

Fast forward now to December 24, the deadline to sign up on the exchange for coverage that would begin January 1.  If Sebelius’ testimony in late October was any indication, the Administration wouldn’t be able to release “reliable” data on how many people had enrolled through the December deadline until the middle of January.  But on December 29, the Administration announced that more “than 1.1 million people enrolled in a qualified health plan via the Federally-facilitated Marketplace from October 1 to December 24, with more than 975,000 of those enrolling this month alone.”  Two days after that, the Administration released more data showing that over 2.1 million people had signed up through state and federal exchanges.

If data could be released five to seven days after the December deadline, why couldn’t HHS release data in a similarly timely fashion for October and November? It’s not likely that “834 piece” problems would have prevented release of this data in October and November.  Despite any such problems, HHS still would have data on who enrolled in the exchanges.  Furthermore, whatever difficulties HHS was having with 834s don’t seem to be resolved. News stories have appeared as recently as January 15 about patients who have enrolled in health insurance coverage through the exchange only to find, when they sought to use the insurance, that the insurer has no record of their enrollment.

The most reasonable explanation is that the enrollment number for the October period was only about 106,000 and for November about 365,000.  Those figures were a public relations disaster for ObamaCare, and so the Administration wanted to delay their release as long as possible.  But in December, enrollment had jumped to a much more positive, headline-generating 2.1 million, and so the Administration wanted those figures reported as quickly as possible.

All that has to happen now is for Harry Reid to let this bill come up in the Senate and then for President Obama to sign it.  Not impossible, but…

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