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Website flaws block Medicaid, CHIP for many who are eligible

– More than 100,000 Americans who applied for insurance through and were told they are eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program remain unenrolled because of lingering software defects in the federal online marketplace, according to federal and state health officials.

To try to provide coverage to these people before they seek medical care, the Obama administration has launched a barrage of phone calls in recent days in 21 states, advising those who applied that the quickest route to get into the programs is to start over at their state’s Medicaid agency.

State officials, meanwhile, are racing to cope in various ways – some enrolling people based on imperfect data files they received from Washington, others mailing letters urging eligible people to contact the state to sign up.

The chaos is likely to be temporary because state and federal officials are trying hard to help people enroll, and the coverage can be made retroactive to the first of the year.

Still, the fact that some users learned on that they could join the two programs – but nonetheless are not enrolled – is creating a problem for states and confusion for consumers.

The situation also offers a glimpse into technical problems that persist with the federal computer system that underpins the new online health insurance marketplace, more than a month after Obama administration officials announced that it had largely been fixed.

“It would be ideal if we didn’t have to go through this,” said Jeremiah Samples, assistant secretary for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, which is mailing letters to 10,000 residents who federal records indicate are eligible under a Medicaid expansion, telling them to apply through a state Medicaid website.

“For our consumers, … when the system doesn’t work for them, it just adds unease.”

White House senior communications adviser Tara McGuinness said the issue “impacts a small fraction of Americans who will have access to health care from Medicaid.”

McGuinness noted that 3.9 million people throughout the country were found to be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP on the state level during October and November, a figure that includes new registrants and renewals.

The more than 100,000 people who have not made it into the programs are out of nearly 270,000 who applied through during that same period and were informed that they qualified for Medicaid or CHIP.

McGuinness predicted that everyone who qualifies for the coverage will be enrolled soon. “One hundred percent of those who are having issues are being contacted by us or the states,” she said.