One of the struggles that the Obamacare Healthcare.gov website has had is what's called the 834 error problem, in which insurance companies are not receiving completed insurance documents from customers. What this means is that some customers are being left without insurance. The worst problem is that no one - not the government, not the insurance companies - can tell which Americans are being left without insurance. It's a completely broken process where people are just left in the cold.
The only way to confirm insurance status is to contact the insurance companies. That means that every single person who has signed up for Obamacare insurance - all 300,000, or possibly more - should go through a separate confirmation process just to make sure they've go the insurance they think they have:
But unless the 1 million Americans who have so far enrolled for coverage via the new marketplaces make sure their applications have arrived at their new insurance companies without errors, some may find they're still uninsured when they try to refill a prescription or make a doctor's appointment.
"The enrollment files have been getting better and more accurate, but there is still work that needs to be done," said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group that represents the private insurance industry. "The health plans are still having to go back and fix some of data errors coming through in these files."
If everything went smoothly, consumers can expect to see a welcome packet arrive in the mail from their insurance company, Zirkelbach said. If not, a phone call to the insurer might clear things up.
The last we heard of the 834 error problem, the Obama Administrations aid that it was down to 10% of total enrollments. That means that as many as 10% of people who have signed up for Obamacare are not actually enrolled in any health plan, and could find themselves out of luck when they actually have to go to the doctor.
The broken health care website has actual consequences. There's a broad swathe of Americans who, come January 1, will be living as if they have health insurance and who will only find out when they go to the emergency room that a broken website has left them without coverage.