Two U.S. government officials warned on Wednesday that the launch of new state healthcare exchanges could potentially be delayed, raising further doubts about the implementation of President Barack Obama's signature legislation.This news comes two weeks after the administration announced it would delay the Obamacare employer mandate until 2015. At this point the individual mandate is still in place, but the House of Representatives voted Wednesday to delay it.
Alan Duncan, an auditor with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, an Internal Revenue Service agency that monitors performance, said testing the systems needed to implement the exchanges "will be difficult to complete" by the October 1 start date.
"The lack of adequate testing could result in significant delays and errors in accepting and processing ... applications for health insurance coverage," he told the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform committee.
Earlier this week, prominent California Democrat and Insurance Commissioner David Jones warned the Obamacare exchanges could lead to rampant fraud and identity theft.
As California prepares to launch its health care exchange, consumer groups are worried the uninsured could fall victim to fraud, identity theft or other crimes at the hands of some of the very people who are supposed to help them enroll.Whether or not the administration wants to admit it, Obamacare isn't ready for primetime.
The exchange, known as Covered California, recently adopted rules for a network of more than 21,000 enrollment counselors who will provide consumers with in-person assistance as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. In some cases, they will have access to personal and financial information, from ID cards to medical histories.
But the state insurance commissioner and anti-fraud groups say the exchange is falling short in ensuring that the people hired as counselors are adequately screened and monitored.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones also said the exchange does not have a plan for investigating any complaints that might arise once the counselors start work. That means consumers who might fall prey to bogus health care products, identity theft and other abuses will have a hard time seeking justice if unscrupulous counselors get ahold of their Social Security number, bank accounts, health records or other private information, he said.
"We can have a real disaster on our hands," Jones, a Democrat, said in an interview.