Hundreds of thousands of people risk losing their new health insurance policies if they don't resubmit citizenship or immigration information to the government by the end of next week -- but the federal Healthcare.gov site remains so glitchy that they are having a tough time complying.
Consumers are being forced to send their information multiple times, and many can't access their accounts at all, immigration law experts and insurance agents say.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent letters to about 310,000 consumers two weeks ago, telling them they need to submit proof of their citizenship or immigration status by Sept. 5 or their insurance will be canceled at the end of the month.
CMS spokesman Aaron Albright says letters were sent only to people for whom the government has no citizenship or immigration documentation. Yet agents and others who assisted immigrants with applications say they know documentation was sent during enrollment.
Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, says the problems don't lie with the consumers. The federal databases for the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration are outdated, have mismatched Social Security numbers and names, and often transpose names for those from other countries, especially refugees from Africa, she says.
Meanwhile, many can't access their accounts. All passwords were changed in April because of a security threat, causing confusion for many consumers. Elizabeth Colvin, director of Insure Central Texas, says many of those her group helped enroll can't reset their passwords because they don't remember their log-in information or security questions.
Even if accounts can be opened, documentation often can't be uploaded, Colvin says. When it is, CMS often says it hasn't been received, says insurance agent Ronnell Nolan, who heads Health Agents for America.
"It's scary because they've sent it in numerous times and different ways, and CMS is saying it doesn't have it," says Nolan. "What are all those people going to do? It's going to be a mess."
Albright says consumers who receive letters should check carefully to determine who needs to send documents and what is needed, then upload them through their marketplace accounts. Those with problems should contact the Healthcare.gov call center at (800) 318-2596.
Hincapie worries that low-income immigrants will lose coverage and says she hopes "these barriers are eliminated" before open enrollment starts Nov. 15. She says her group has complained to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burrell, CMS and the White House Domestic Policy Council.