FILE – In this Oct. 6, 2015 file photo, the HealthCare.gov website, where people can buy health insurance, is displayed on a laptop screen in Washington. With sign-up season starting in just two weeks, the Obama administration is indicating on Oct. 19, that some long-awaited upgrades to the government’s health insurance website could take more time. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — With sign-up season starting in less than two weeks, the Obama administration indicated on Monday that some long-awaited upgrades to the government’s health insurance website could take more time before they’re customer-ready.
At issue is a new doctor look-up tool for HealthCare.gov, as well as another feature that would allow consumers to find out whether a particular health plan covers their prescription drugs. Up to now, digging out that information has required additional steps.
Lori Lodes, communications director for the agency that runs the health care program, said those online improvements will be ready to launch soon, but she would not commit to a specific date.
The insurance industry says ongoing testing uncovered some problems with accuracy.
“Right now, we are working closely with the insurance companies to make sure their data is accurate and validated and to identify and fix any potential issues,” Lodes said in a statement. “When we are confident that the data provided by the insurers gives consumers the information they need to choose the right plan, we’ll be ready to launch.”
Open enrollment for 2016 starts Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31. Insurers were required to provide the data by Oct. 1. Industry officials say the government left too little time for testing. The administration says it has extended the testing period, and insurers need to submit their data in the correct format.
Another consumer-friendly upgrade — a cost estimator — apparently won’t be delayed.
The administration has set a goal of 10 million paying customers by the end of next year in the health law’s insurance markets, which offer taxpayer-subsidized private plans to people who don’t have access to job-based coverage.
By allowing a delay, the administration may spare itself some embarrassment if the promised online improvements had turned out to have bugs.
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