Washington (CNN) - After years of characterizing the insurance industry as the bad guys in the health reform debate, the White House on Wednesday invited insurance company executives in to deliver a clear message: we need your help.
At a session led by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, insurance executives gave the administration “a picture of what’s going on on the ground” and offered to help fix the problems.
It was, according to one source in the room, “a very productive discussion. They [the White House team] took notes, had great questions, and started a technical process.”
As a result, technical groups from the companies are now going to work directly with experts from the government who have been running the website, according to this source.
“We are encouraged they are looking to the experts in the industry,” the source said.
The question, of course, is why this didn’t happen sooner.
“The reality is that we have so much expertise they haven’t tapped into enough,” added the source. “These are people who have built these systems.”
The executives told the administration, according to this source, that one problem they’re having is that they are receiving enrollments that “aren’t clear. And when the application isn’t clear, it doesn’t work.”
Another problem is the direct enrollment to insurance plans through the website - largely because the applicants have to go back to exchanges to set up accounts.
According to this source, the administration said it’s ”on the case” and wants to solve the enrollment problem. Companies would like to be able to have people both enroll through exchanges, or directly with insurers.
In a statement after the meeting, the White House said the administration is “collaborating closely with the insurers to address problems we have witnessed” in direct enrollment as well as other issues.
A total of 14 insurance leaders met with McDonough, Sebelius and White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, as well as other officials.