With 11 days to go until the scheduled launch of the online federal exchange marketplace, major defects have been uncovered, which could delay online marketplace access for health insurance consumers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, preliminary testing of the online federal exchange marketplace software (conducted by insurance company executives participating in the marketplace) have revealed a major defect involving premium calculations with subsidy assistance. Meaning, insurance consumers who are eligible to receive tax payer funded premium assistance will not receive an accurate price for coverage via the online enrollment portal. This will make it very difficult for consumers to enroll in coverage online, as they will not know exactly what they will be paying for coverage should they enroll.

While an online marketplace delay would be severe blow for the initial wave of people wanting to enroll in Affordable Care Act coverage, there are a few things to consider. First, it is highly unlikely open enrollment would be delayed, as customers will still be able to enroll through conventional methods, such as seeking the assistance of licensed insurance producers, or by contacting an insurance company directly. Secondly, first day of coverage does not begin until January 1, 2014, giving consumers plenty of time to enroll.

The federal online health insurance marketplace will be setup to handle potentially 32 million uninsured American enrollments across 36 states, including New Jersey. The remaining states will have their own online exchanges (e.g. New York, California, Connecticut, etc.) Bear in mind that similar defects may impact those states as well. For example, the Oregon state health insurance exchange will not be ready to provide online enrollments by the October 1 2013 deadline, and the NY State exchange does not yet provide a SHOP exchange premium calculator.

We will provide additional updates as we receive more information.