Obamacare is still not ready for primetime, more than six weeks after its exchange website went live, in spite of the administration's urgent efforts to make it work.
Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Tuesday that 30 percent to 40 percent of the entire Obamacare system still needs to be built, including a payment system. That's right: you can currently find an insurance plan — if you can get past the ongoing website glitches — but there's no way to pay.
Americans are required to have health insurance come January 1, 2014, but in order to be covered by that date, insurers must receive payment by December 15, 2013.
Chao, testifying before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee, was responding to questions from Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., about how much of healthcare.gov website still needed to be built.
“How much do we have to build today still?” Gardner asked. “What do we need to build – 50 percent? 40 percent? 30 percent?”
Chao thought for a moment before estimating. “I think it’s – just an approximation – we’re probably sitting somewhere between 60 and 70 percent because we still have to build the ..."
At first, it seemed like Chao was saying 60 percent to 70 percent still needed to be built. But in another line of questioning, Chao said "you mean the remaining 30 to 40 percent?" which seems to hint at initial confusion on his part.
But Chao kept responding to Gardner's questions as if the 60 percent to 70 percent number was correct.
“Sixty to 70 percent that needs to be built still?” Gardner asked.
“Because we still have to build the payment systems to make payments to the issuers in January,” Chao responded.
“The entire system that the American people are being required to rely upon is 60 to 70 percent ...” Gardner began before Chao interrupted.
Chao made clear that while a major percentage of the entire Obamacare infrastructure still needed to be built, healthcare.gov, despite its problems, is complete.
“The online application, verification, determination [of eligibility], plan compare, getting enrolled, generating enrollment transaction – that’s all 100 percent there,” Chao said.
Pressed further by Gardner about the 60 percent to 70 percent number, Chao listed what still wasn’t built.
“There’s the back office systems, the accounting systems, the payment systems,” Chao said. “They still need to be built."
Obamacare was signed into law March 23, 2010.