Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Healthcare.gov Can't Report Address, Email, Phone Number Changes to Insurance Companies

    For now, the "one-stop shopping" experience at Healthcare.gov repeatedly promised by President Obama is still at least one stop short of the goal.  In early January, news reports revealed a glaring shortcoming at Healthcare.gov: no function existed to report "life events", such as the birth of a child or a divorce, which could alter coverage needs or eligibility for tax credits.  Although this feature was subsequently added, the site still lacks the ability to report changes to basic contact information to a consumer's insurance company: a new address, email, or phone number.
    A new topic at the Obamacare website is entitled "How do I report life changes to the Marketplace?" Although most life changes can now be reported online at Healthcare.gov or over the phone with a customer service representative, the final paragraph alerts consumers that any changes in contact information must be reported twice [emphasis in original]: "To change your home address, email address, or phone number, update the information on your Marketplace Profile page.  Be sure to report address, email, and phone changes to your insurance company too. Otherwise they may not know about your new contact information."  Here's a partial screenshot of the page:

    The instructions to double-report contact information to both the Marketplace and the insurance company are not just found at Healthcare.gov.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also produces flyers with information about how coverage purchased through the Marketplace is maintained. While most changes are (apparently) passed on to the consumer's insurance company once the information is reported to Healthcare.gov, the contact information curiously seems to fall into a different category that must be reported directly to the provider by the consumer [highlight added]:

    Since Healthcare.gov must report changes in coverage or tax credits to insurance companies in order for coverage and billing to be accurate, it is unclear why the Marketplace is unable to communicate simple address, phone, and email changes.  The site does not indicate when this capability will be added, so it's up to consumers to do it themselves or face the risk that their insurance company won't know how to reach them.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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