U.S. Reps. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9) have asked the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an independent, comprehensive assessment of the functionality of the Affordable Care Act website, healthcare.gov. Reps. Lipinski and Sinema, in a letter signed by 10 House members, requested the GAO to perform the analysis as quickly as possible to help Congress determine if an extension of the open enrollment period and a delay of the penalties imposed on those who do not carry health insurance are necessary.
"Despite assurances that healthcare.gov has been fixed after the disastrous rollout, significant concerns still remain. Reports suggest that there are still issues with waiting times and system glitches that are making it difficult for some people to sign up for a health care plan. In addition, critical parts of the system still have not been built and insurers may not be receiving correct information about the individuals and families who have enrolled in their plans. An independent analysis of the functionality of the website is clearly warranted when millions of Americans are being required to use either healthcare.gov to purchase a health plan or pay a penalty," Rep. Lipinski said. "I did not vote for the Affordable Care Act, but I am committed to doing everything I can to fix the multiple problems with it. Since the passage of the law, I have sponsored, co-sponsored, or voted for more than 20 pieces of legislation to institute changes, including a bill I authored to extend the open enrollment period and delay the individual mandate in order to give Americans enough time to sign up after the website was finally functioning properly."
"Arizona families need the healthcare.gov website to work so they can determine their coverage choices and costs. Progress has been made but Arizona families should also be confident that their information is secure and that their purchase is successfully transmitted to the insurance provider," Rep. Sinema said. "This independent analysis that we are requesting will help improve the front and back end of the website so that individuals and businesses can thoroughly review their choices and make informed decisions about their health care coverage."
The letter requests that the GAO evaluate the website's current performance and the administration's rate of progress in making improvements. In addition to making sure that healthcare.gov can handle the traffic from people signing up for coverage, the letter also calls on the GAO to answer whether the information collected is being transferred to insurance providers in an accurate and timely manner.
The report would be due to Congress at the start of its first session in January.
In October, in response to problems with healthcare.gov, Rep. Lipinski introduced the Health Care Access Fairness and Penalty Delay Act (H.R. 3425). The legislation would require the Health and Human Services Inspector General to certify when the healthcare.gov website is fully operational. Once the Inspector General certifies that the website is operational, individuals would have at least 90 days to enroll in a health care plan. The penalties to comply with the law's individual mandate would not commence until 30 days later.
Rep. Lipinski has also cosponsored the "If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep it Act" (H.R. 3406) in order, to help protect Americans from losing the health insurance plan they currently have. The bill would change the Affordable Care Act by allowing insurance companies to continue offering plans to existing customers that the law currently requires them to cancel. Under the bill, there is no time limit on how long these plans can be renewed.
A copy of the letter to the GAO is attached.
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