Yet Another Obamacare Glitch Was Just Discovered
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The Fiscal Times
March 21, 2014

The federal website central to Obamacare has been operating with a calculating error that could have negatively affected enrollment numbers, and no one seemed to know about it for nearly six months.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that HealthCare.Gov has a little-known glitch in its subsidy calculator that, though quite small, may be notifying people who are eligible for financial assistance that they do not qualify for a subsidy. The site’s calculator is an unofficial estimate that consumers can use to see how much financial assistance they qualify for before beginning the application process.

Related: Top 10 Questions Consumers Ask About Obamacare

So, the glitch isn’t causing people to receive inaccurate subsidies, it’s just providing them with inaccurate information before they make the decision to move forward in the application process.

Still, the error could potentially be discouraging people from signing up for coverage through the exchanges, if they think their health care is unaffordable.

The issue stems from the information the website is using to determine subsidy eligibility.

The health care law uses 2013 poverty guidelines to assess who qualifies for a subsidy. However, the website is using 2014 guidelines, which are 1.5 percent higher. Under the law, people with income between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level qualify to receive subsidies.

Related: 4 Reasons Obamacare Premiums Will Rise Next Year

The glitch only affects individuals and families living with incomes just barely reaching over the poverty line. Since they are told they are not eligible to receive financial assistance, their plans are sometimes thousands of dollars more—rendering them unaffordable for some.

For instance, an individual whose income was about 101 percent of the poverty level in 2013 would be deemed ineligible under this tool. However, the applicant could continue with the application process and find out if they actually qualified, as The Examiner noted.

CMS spokesman Richard Olague stressed that the tool is used as an “unofficial estimate” that consumers can check out before they complete the application.

"We encourage consumers to complete their marketplace application, where they will get an accurate determination of their tax credits."

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Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.