Are You Who You Say You Are? Verifying Identity in the Federal Marketplace
By Consumers Union on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
Are the standards to confirm your identity to apply for health insurance through the Federal Marketplace too strict?
The online Federal Marketplace, HealthCare.gov, has been directing applicants to confirm their identity through a website run by Experian, the largest credit reporting agency. However, at least one consumer reported to us that she attempted to sign up for health insurance online through HealthCare.gov but was unable to have her identity confirmed. L. from Texas writes:
“Twice now, I’ve been unable to get my identity verified because Experian has had incorrect data on me in their files. . . . [The] second was when I was trying to apply for health insurance for my husband under the new ACA website. How is it that this agency has so much power over us and isn’t forced to be more accurate or more diligent in checking its data?”
We spoke to her and found that luckily, after trying a second time, she was able to confirm her identity through the website. Still, a recent New York Times article suggests that others are also having trouble with the identity proofing system. It cites the stories of consumers who have been unable to confirm their identity online through the Federal Marketplace.
Young people or others without an extensive credit history may have difficulty verifying their identity through Experian. Others may experience difficulties getting “proofed” if they supply names or addresses that don’t match up with their Experian credit file. An FTC report released earlier this year revealed that as many as 40 million Americans have experienced an error on their reports from one of the three credit reporting companies.
How to verify your identity if you are having problems doing so online: While more may be required to help ensure that everyone can use the online system to prove their identity, some may not realize that there are alternative ways to do so other than answering online questions through Experian. We suggest that those who have difficulties verifying their identity through the online application process or over the telephone simply apply for healthcare coverage in person – just be sure to bring a driver’s license, passport, or identity card (or other proof of identity). Click here to find an office near you.
We think it is still important to have a strict online verification process in order to protect sensitive information, particularly from identity theft. Policymakers want to ensure that identity thieves aren’t applying for healthcare benefits using someone else’s personal information. Knowledge-based identity proofing, which requires that the applicant answer a series of personal questions (like former addresses or telephone numbers), is one way to ensure that there is no identity fraud. The problem is, however, Experian may not collect, or may not accurately capture, personal data for millions of people applying for health insurance coverage.
Regardless of the system used to verify identity, we believe that the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) far outweigh any difficulties with registering online. Through the federal- and state-based Marketplaces, all consumers will be able to access quality healthcare for reasonable prices. The ACA has also guaranteed a number of benefits, such as no yearly or lifetime limits on coverage, no-cost preventive services, and the ability to keep a young person on his parent’s plan until the age of 26.
If you haven’t yet signed up for health insurance coverage, be sure to check out Consumer Reports’ Health Law Helper! It’s a convenient online tool that quickly directs you to personalized information to help you understand the kinds of healthcare options you may be eligible for.
Cross-posted to DefendYourDollars.org