Since 2014, millions of Americans have been able to sign up for low-cost health insurance coverage they otherwise would not have had, as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, many of those people may also run into difficulties from one year to the next if their circumstances change in some way, and it's a problem thousands of Americans are now dealing with once again.
Since the start of the new year, a number of health insurers - both large and small - have received a large volume of calls about the ways in which the health insurance they offer to both individual and small business customers has somehow gone wrong, according to a report from the Associated Press. Some of those companies are now reporting problems for as many as 10,000 individuals or client groups, which is a major problem for all parties involved.
Specifically, the number of people who signed up for or renewed their health insurance at the end of last year was so significant that many insurers couldn't handle the volume, the report said. This has led to billing mistakes, non-issuance of insurance cards, and more. That, in turn, creates major issues for the people who have yet to have their information properly updated or renewed, because it may hinder their ability to obtain care in some way, or pay for treatments they've already received.
The problem was exacerbated in some ways because health insurers themselves changed offerings in a number of major cities that effectively forced a massive wave of people to change their plans within a very short window, the report said. This sort of thing has obviously happened in the past, but many in the industry say that the current problems are like nothing they've ever seen before.
How bad is it?
For instance, one major health insurer in North Carolina recently revealed that it had only planned for a 40 percent increase in call volume on its customer service hotline as a result of this problem, the report said. Instead, the call volume has increased 500 percent, and this issue is pretty similar to those being experienced by its competitors, regardless of size.
This creates customer frustration and a massive backlog of problems through which these insurers end up having to work, slowly but surely, the report said. In the meantime, though, there may not be many good answers for consumers who are concerned about the ways in which these delays will impact them. Some experts also believe that as long as consumers keep buying en masse at the last minute, this problem will persist at the start of each new year until something changes on the insurers' side.
This is obviously something that many health insurers will have to keep an eye on, and look for ways to avoid this pitfall as time goes on. That will likely lead to greater ease on their part, as well as that of their policyholders.