The Conversation

Obamacare's Glitchy Website Hinders Thousands Asked to Verify Citizenship

Three hundred thousand people who enrolled in Obamacare have been asked to submit proof of citizenship or risk losing their insurance. Many who have tried to comply are finding the healthcare.gov website to be more of an obstacle than a convenience.

The problems with citizenship verification were reported by USA Today Thursday. The paper reports that 310,000 notices were sent out earlier this month requesting proof of citizenship. In order to respond by the deadline next week, individuals need to be able to upload the requested documents on to healthcare.gov.

So far the glitchy website has created a problem at every step in the process. As USA Today notes, all Obamacare passwords were changed in April. As a result some people are having trouble just logging on to the site. For those who do manage to get in some are unable to upload requested documents. Finally, even those who successfully upload documents are being told by CMS, the division of HHS which manages the site, that the documents are not being received.

Insurance agent Ronnell Nolan tells USA Today, ""It's scary because they've sent it in numerous times and different ways, and CMS is saying it doesn't have it." The deadline for submission is next Friday. Obamacare's heavily subsidies health plans are only available to U.S. Citizens.

Verification of citizenship is just one type of application inconsistency that has plagued the program. Back in May the Washington Post reported that the government had identified at least 3 million Obamacare enrollees with inconsistencies in their applications. Most of those discrepancies had to do with income, i.e. someone's claimed income on an application varied from IRS tax data.

At the time, CMS was offering 90 days for people to correct these apparent inconsistencies; however, the deadline was extended because there was no automated system of verification. Hundreds of thousands of documents sent to CMS--only a fraction of the total number of apparent problems--needed to be checked by hand.

The issue of income verification is critical to Obamacare because it can substantially affect the amount of subsidies an individual receives. Those who claim too much income could wind up receiving a smaller subsidy than they are eligible for while those claiming too little income could get too much.

The latter group is especially worrisome since the IRS will eventually reconcile the amount of subsidies paid and, in case of overpayment, hold the individual responsible on their annual taxes. This could add up to $1250 surprise tax liability for a single person (and double that for families).

Jessica Waltman, who works for a health insurance industry lobbying group, told the Post in May, "I have this sick feeling that there are these people out there who have made unintentional errors, and in a few years will be subject to massive tax bills."


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