WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The website the Obama administration rolled out is not only facing technical glitches, but a serious pricing problem as well.
CBS News reports that the new “shop and browse” feature on HealthCare.gov is underestimating the cost of health insurance – in fact, customers could wind up paying double.
The problem stems from the website’s two age categories: “49 or under” and “50 or older.”
“It’s incredibly misleading for people that are trying to get a sense of what they’re paying,” industry analyst Jonathan Wu told CBS News.
CBS News found the Obamacare website would charge a 48-year-old Charlotte, N.C. resident who is ineligible for subsidies $231 a month. The actual plan on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s website though costs $360.
It gets worse as the age of the patient in question increases. HealthCare.gov prices a 62-year-old Charlotte resident at $394 for a basic plan when it would actually cost $634.
“It’s important that the users have a proper, trustworthy, honest brand experience when they interact with HealthCare.gov, and I think providing accurate prices is an integral component of that,” Chini Krishnan, CEO of GetInsured.com, told CBS News.
Faced with mounting questions about the website, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that Jeffrey Zients, the longtime management consultant, will help fix the problems and turn the site into the breezy, one-stop shopping portal President Barack Obama promised it would be.
Zients came out of a temporary retirement from the federal government and quietly dived into his new assignment on Monday. He left the administration earlier this year after the budget director’s job went to someone else. Last month, Obama announced that Zients would take over next year as director of the National Economic Council, becoming the president’s chief economic adviser.
Zients will provide short-term advice, assessments and recommendations to a Department of Health and Human Services team that officials say has been working around the clock to fix http://www.healthcare.gov since it went live Oct. 1. Administration officials, from Obama on down, had promoted the federal website as the first stop for uninsured people in 36 states who want to figure out what coverage they can afford. They are now urging people to also try signing up by telephone, mail or in person.
“He’s not going to be looking under the hood and tell you, ‘I can fix the coding, I can fix it,’” Baer said of Zients’ newest assignment. “His skill is going to be how to identify challenges, prioritize what solutions need to be done next, assessing what talent is already available and then how to motivate them to do that job as quickly and as ably as possible.”
Aneesh Chopra, who was Obama’s chief technology officer, said Zients is extremely skilled in figuring things out from a management perspective.
“If I was confident this issue would be resolved before his participation, I am doubly so now,” said Chopra, who also worked with Zients at the Advisory Board Co., one of two business advisory firms where Zients has held top posts. “Jeff’s track record is really a relentless focus on execution.”
In 2009, after far more drivers than anticipated signed up for the Cash for Clunkers program and the federal website set up to process rebates of up to $4,500 per new car kept crashing under the weight of the demand, Zients helped smooth things out.
He played a similar role following the rocky rollout of a new GI Bill for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The program had become so bogged down that the Veterans Affairs Department began to issue $3,000 advance checks to thousands of veterans who needed help paying expenses until their claims could be processed. At one point, Zients, Chopra and Vivek Kundra, then the chief technology officer, flew to a VA processing center in St. Louis to size up the problems.
Before Zients joined the administration, he was chief executive officer and chairman of the Advisory Board Co., and chairman of the Corporate Executive Board. Zients also founded Portfolio Logic, an investment firm that focused on business and health care service companies.
Zients has a political science degree from Duke University.
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