Undercover Tests Expose Lax Obamacare Enrollment Controls

To assess the enrollment controls of the federal Health Insurance Marketplace (Marketplace), GAO performed 18 undercover tests, 12 of which focused on phone or online applications. During these tests, the Marketplace approved subsidized coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) for 11 of the 12 fictitious GAO applicants for 2014. The GAO applicants obtained a total of about $30,000 in annual advance premium tax credits, plus eligibility for lower costs due at time of service. For 7 of the 11 successful fictitious applicants, GAO intentionally did not submit all required verification documentation to the Marketplace, but the Marketplace did not cancel subsidized coverage for these applicants. While these subsidies, including those granted to GAO’s fictitious applicants, are paid to health-care insurers, and not directly to enrolled consumers, they nevertheless represent a benefit to consumers and a cost to the government. GAO’s undercover testing, while illustrative, cannot be generalized to the population of all applicants or enrollees. GAO shared details of its observations with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) during the course of its testing, to seek agency responses to the issues raised. Other observations included the following:

  • The Marketplace did not accurately record all inconsistencies. Inconsistencies occur when applicant information does not match information available from Marketplace verification sources. Also, the Marketplace resolved inconsistencies from GAO’s fictitious applications based on fictitious documentation that GAO submitted. Overall, according to CMS officials, the Marketplace did not terminate any coverage for several types of inconsistencies, including Social Security data or incarceration status.

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