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Why Did HHS Wait Two Years to Develop the Only Technology that Obamacare Required of HealthCare.gov?

Why Did HHS Wait Two Years to Develop the Only Technology that Obamacare Required of HealthCare.gov?

As Breitbart reported Saturday, Obamacare’s back end is still not built, requiring officials to verify applications by hand. This raises an importantquestion: How can a computer system designed for a law that was signed four years and eight months ago still remain unfinished? The answer is quite simple.

Many of the back end problems and delays relate to issues with tax credits. A website that just provides policy options dependent on the number of dependents, their ages, and whether or not they smoke is relatively simple, and numerous sites already exist that could have served as the model forHealthCare.gov. However, introducing tax credits into the system creates numerous other pieces of information that must be verified and coordinated among multiple governmental and insurance entities.

In fact, the drafters of the ACA realized the significance of this complication. The section of the several-thousand-page law titled “FUNCTIONS” listed the basic requirements of an exchange. This section only specifically mentions one piece of required technology by stating a Health Benefit Exchange shall “establish and make available by electronic means a calculator to determine the actual cost of coverage after the application of any premium tax credit under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and any cost-sharing reduction under section 1402.” The piece of technology is critical because in order for an exchange website to offer tax credits, it must have a tax credit calculator.

As a report I wrote, published by Competitive Enterprise Institute on November 20, 2014 stated, “Official documents show that while HHS moved quickly after the ACA’s enactment to help state governments make tax credits available through state-based exchanges, for nearly two years, it developed its HealthCare.gov website without any effort to offer tax credits on the federal exchange.” 

The report goes on to say, “HHS initially set out to establish its federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, without a tax credit calculator–that is, it set up the federal exchange so that it could not provide users any information about tax credits. This strongly suggests that its original interpretation was that only residents of states that established their own exchanges were entitled to tax credits. It was only after many states decided against setting up exchanges that HHS and the Obama administration changed course and began claiming that the Affordable Care Act allows tax credits for both state and federally facilitated exchanges. Only then did HHS begin developing a tax credit calculator for HealthCare.gov.”

The report concludes, “the Obama administration and the Department of Health and Human Services required states establishing their own exchange to build a tax credit calculator. However, for two years after passage of the law, they did not require the same for the federal exchange.” It is only logical that the two-year delay, while the administration was acting under a different interpretation of tax credits for federally facilitated exchanges, was a significant cause for not only the continued back end problems but also the botched rollout.

Oblimination–a desire for change, and the reversal of Obama’s failed policies.

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