An Associated Press story Wednesday detailing how at least 2 million individuals have data discrepancies in their applications for Affordable Care Act insurance subsidies provides another example of executive implementation gone awry.
The issue lies with verification of income, citizenship and immigration status for those applying for health insurance subsidies. Legislation that reopened the federal government last fall included a requirement (Section 1001 here) for the secretary of health and human services (HHS) to certify that only eligible individuals would receive insurance subsidies.
The 16-page HHS report complying with that requirement has more than a dozen pages of references to federal regulations, statutory requirements, government agencies and administrative processes—suggesting that taxpayer funds would be spent wisely.
Except the processes weren’t ready at all. The Washington Post reported last month that the federal computer systems central to the verification process had yet to be built—meaning that verification documents sent in by Americans have been gathering dust.
Wednesday’s AP story cited an administration official saying that about 60% of exchange applications with discrepancies remain in the 90-day window provided under the law to adjudicate disputes. The implication is that 40% of applications—or about 800,000 individuals’ paperwork—haven’t been resolved, and it’s not known when they might be.
All this means that those Americans receiving subsidies in error—who may later be forced to pay back sizable sums as the verification process drags on—and all taxpayers, who will ultimately foot the bill for any fraud, could face nasty surprises in future months.
This post was originally published at the Wall Street Journal Think Tank blog.