A busy screen is shown on the laptop of a Certified Application Counselor as he attempted to enroll an interested person for Affordable Care Act insurance in Miami

A busy screen is shown on the laptop of a Certified Application Counselor as he attempted to enroll an interested person for Affordable Care Act insurance, known as Obamacare, at the Borinquen Medical Center in Miami, Florida October 2, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

By David Morgan
WASHINGTON Wed Nov 27, 2013 4:22pm EST

(Reuters) – The Obama administration says it is on target to make its problematic health insurance website work smoothly for the “vast majority” of users by this weekend, but some Americans who want coverage by January 1 may not be able to get it – even if they successfully navigate the portal and sign up for a plan.

The problem, according to insurance industry officials and other specialists, is that the administration is behind schedule in building a computer program needed to help insurers verify the names, insurance plan choices and other details of those who sign up for health coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

The computer program – which administration officials acknowledge will not be finished until sometime next year – is among several crucial pieces of administrative technology the government is devising to serve new online healthcare marketplaces that allow people to purchase subsidized private health insurance or join the Medicaid program for the poor in all 50 states.

The missing technology includes a computer program to make sure government subsidies to help low-income enrollees pay for coverage get to insurers.

The programs under construction are part of a complex federal technology system that is crucial to the new health system’s goal of helping millions of uninsured and under-insured Americans sign up for coverage through HealthCare.gov and other websites.

The online marketplaces opened for enrollment on October 1 but have been beset by technical problems, particularly with HealthCare,gov, the federally run website that serves consumers in 36 states.

Even if HealthCare.gov is able finally to handle the flood of enrollees that officials expect in December, the administration could face a backlash from people who have enrolled but whose paperwork will not be completed by the time their coverage is supposed to take effect on January 1.

Significant new difficulties would hinder efforts by President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies to show they have dealt with the botched rollout of the healthcare overhaul.

It also could create a new narrative for Republicans, who have argued for the healthcare law to be delayed or killed and will be looking to focus on Obamacare’s troubles going into next year’s mid-term elections.

‘COVERAGE COULD BE DISRUPTED’

Until the administrative computer programs are finished, information about some Obamacare enrollees could be incomplete or inaccurate by the time insurers receive it from the exchanges, analysts said.

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