Feb. 11, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Capitol Hill Feels Pains of Obamacare Sign-Up Troubles

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Representatives from DC Health Link were on hand at the Hart Senate Office Building this week to help Senate employees with health insurance enrollment problems.

Members of Congress who have gone along with the idea that they should get insurance through Obamacare’s system of exchanges are getting a stronger dose of medicine than they bargained for.

Most of the national attention has focused on the trouble with the federal HealthCare.gov portal, but for members and staff, glitches with DC Health Link are personal. Dec. 9 is the deadline for employees moving from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to the new health insurance exchange to make coverage choices for 2014.

However, an email sent to staffers Friday said that those who can prove they tried to enroll in the District’s insurance exchange by Dec. 9, but were unsuccessful in completing the process and receiving confirmation, will have until Dec. 16 to notify administrative offices.

“If at that time your enrollment cannot be confirmed, you will be provided with an opportunity to enroll through the [DC Health Link] website after December 9th, with a January 1, 2014 effective date of coverage,” according to guidance sent to staffers.

It’s impossible to get a clear picture of the scope of the problems members and staff are encountering, but an informal survey showed that people experiencing trouble also had difficulty getting through to the appropriate officials to rectify their issues.

As of Friday morning, thousands of members and staffers had already enrolled in plans offered through DC Health Link, according to Richard Sorian, director of communication, education and outreach for the exchange.

“Nearly half of those who are eligible have completed their applications and more than one-third have chosen a health plan and completed their enrollment,” he said.

“We know that traditionally many people wait until the last day or the last days of open enrollment to decide on a health plan,” Sorian said, based on experience with the FEHBP and other health programs.

When the Office of Personnel Management decided to maintain employer contributions only for employees in the new health care arrangement through the D.C. exchange, it essentially turned the local government into a federal benefits manager. That’s unlike any other Obamacare exchange in the country.

Several staffers who are not residents of the nation’s capital indicated they were having trouble enrolling through DC Health Link. This includes people who may have a home in the District but who maintain their home-state residency through the reciprocity benefits afforded to congressional aides, as well as state-based staff and residents of neighboring Maryland and Virginia.

One House GOP aide reported figuring out that she had been denied on Friday, because she maintained residency in her native state.

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