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Inside the war room

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Federal health insurance exchange program managers still want to get agents and brokers involved with enrolling consumers in exchange plans.

The exchange enrollment system team talked on Oct. 11 about trying to “stoke the furnace” for recruiting more agents and brokers for the exchange distribution team.

“Trying to bring in 60,000 more,” according to a new batch of confidential “war room notes” posted on the House Oversight and Government Reform website Monday.

Members of the war room team also have been talking about the mechanics of supplementing use of the troubled Web site with paper applications.

Consumers had submitted at least 3,000 paper applications by Oct. 18, and, as of Oct. 11, the call center was getting about 30,000 requests for paper applications per day.

The workers processing the paper applications noted that consumers with paper applications were submitting many supplemental documents, including copies of documents not requested on the application, and that some consumers were sending envelopes containing only supplemental documents and nothing else.

The Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight — the unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that’s in charge of overseeing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exchange program — created the “war room” to try to resolve problems at the exchange enrollment site.

Part of the site serves the 36 HHS-run “federal exchanges.” Another part, a “data services hub,” helps verify health program applicant eligibility information for both the HHS exchanges and state-based exchanges.

CCIIO and its parent, HHS, have given little information about the nature of the problems or efforts made to fix the problems. HHS has given the names of some top “technology surge” project leaders, but has declined during press briefings even to say how many people are on the surge team.

In the war room notes, team members give many more details about what’s been going wrong and some information about how CCIIO has been trying to fix the problems.

The team found, for example, that both consumers and would-be exchange agents were having trouble with “identity management” — logging in — but that consumers and agents were having similar types of identity management problems with completely different identity management systems.

The team noted in discussions about erroneous plan data that, in some cases, they might be able to cope with the problems by simply eliminating consumers’ ability to buy coverage from some issuers in some counties. But others noted that this would approach would cut down on the number of plans that consumers can buy and that, for this year, at least, ought to try to fix information problems rather than eliminating the plan options associated with the jumbled information.

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