Back in May, the U.S. government said 1 million people in 36 states with health insurance through the Affordable Care Act federal exchange had not properly established their citizenship or residency and risked losing coverage. A week ago, they announced the number had dropped to 310,000 as a September 5 deadline approached.
The Los Angeles Times reported last week that the state, which runs its own exchange, was still missing proper documentation for 100,000 people but they had until late September or October to make their case.
And according to Covered California (CC) Executive Director Peter Lee, they might have a case to make. “We are quite confident where people have not provided information it's not because they are not citizens,” Lee reportedly told a CC board meeting. “Rather, it's a challenge of getting the information to us.”
That challenge arises when proof of residency or citizenship, like a Social Security number or Permanent Resident Card number, does not match what is already in the system. That error can be from either end or some muddled place in the middle.
Sometimes notifications of the deficiency never reach the insured party. Some people have reported uploading documents that don’t seem to arrive at the other end, although they receive no such notification. In other instances, people have been asked to resubmit data multiple times despite repeatedly complying.
Both the state and federal government used a light touch on residency verification during enrollment last fall because of myriad problems associated with the rollout. They wanted as many people in the system initially as reasonably possible, but vowed to intensify scrutiny during this year’s enrollment.
Covered California officials told the Times that the verification process has become so intense that workers have had to be pulled from other jobs to help. Consequently, the call center has wracked up an abysmal record of late.
Although the state’s goal for answering calls within 30 seconds is 80%, it only managed 38% in July and almost a third of the callers gave up, according to the Times. The service centers answered 85.2% on time (pdf) in May.