Secret Insurance Shoppers find Weaknesses in Application System

Government investigators posing as consumers shopping on the Affordable Care Act-created health insurance exchanges were able to purchase plans with fictitious or incomplete, documents, a federal report found.

Working undercover, specialists with the Government Accountability Office applied for health insurance plans in several states using invalid or missing Social Security numbers and inaccurate citizenship information, GAO officials said.

In testimony before the US House Ways and Means subcommittee, GAO representatives said that all except for one of the phony applicants received and retained subsidized coverage. The undercover specialists applied on the Internet and over the phone. According to the testimony, in only one of six attempts to obtain coverage did an exchange assistant accurately told an investigator that their income was too high for a subsidy, the Washington Post reported.

GAO officials told the panel that their findings were still preliminary and so they would not identify which states were problematic. The investigation was requested by Republican members of the subcommittee.

A US Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson, Aaron Albright, told the Post that the agency would “work with GAO to identify additional strategies to strengthen our verification processes during this first year of the Affordable Care Act.

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