Drum roll please – And with all the drama and thrill of a Fourth of July firework dud, the ObamaCare insurance exchanges officially opened on October 1.
Despite three and a half years of preparation, launches of the much-awaited “healthcare insurance marketplaces” were almost universally fraught with problems. Multiple states reported near-immediate crashes of their online sites. Visitors to others witnessed a stunning array of error messages, prolonged delays and an inability to complete the forms necessary to register, let alone choose a healthcare plan.
Concerns about privacy, non-encrypted personal data, and poorly trained and minimally screened system “navigators” added to rampant consumer frustration.
All the hype leading up to the October 1st launch -- followed by a floundering debut -- has resulted in a predictable and rapid loss of interest from the public. Like attendees at a fireworks grand finale that fails to ignite, consumers quickly become distracted. They pack up their blankets and folding chairs, and head back to the car.
Recall that the exchanges were designed to function as a sort of “marketplace” for consumers, and to be the gateway to health insurance for people who don't have access to coverage through their employers. The exchanges are critical because the requirement for everyone to have healthcare insurance – the so-called “individual mandate” – is the sine qua non of the reform legislation.
Many states opted not to embark on the onerous task of creating the online exchanges themselves, deferring instead to the federal government to tackle that challenge.
Unfortunately, the government’s own site performed no better than those in the various states that attempted to build and manage their own. One of the most troubling “glitches” was that many consumers who managed to navigate the initial on-line registration were ultimately “timed out” because they took too long comparing and contrasting plans – One of the core advertised functions of the exchanges.
As a result of vast technology problems, the Obama administration shut down its site for an overhaul and repairs within days of the launch. A visit to the healthcare.gov site reveals that the enrollment functions will be “temporarily unavailable”.
Perhaps they would have been more inclined to delay raising the curtain on the new exchanges had Obama not granted waivers to all of Congress, their staffers, the unions and a host of his supporters.
Despite what many would describe as an abject failure, the Obama administration released a statement describing the October 1st debut in remarkably favorable terms.
In testament to the administration’s brazenness in spinning a yarn, the release was titled, "Health Insurance Marketplace Open for Business - Week One Success."
According to the statement, "Americans are excited to look at their options for health coverage, with record demand in the first days of the marketplaces". Consumers have until December 15th to enroll for coverage that they are required by law to have in place by January1, 2014.
Apparently, there’s nothing like the threat of an IRS investigation and a hefty fine to incite “excitement” in a shopping experience.
Unfortunately, the problem with the troubled launch of the exchanges extends far beyond the technicalities of getting people enrolled in healthcare insurance.
Like it or not, John Q. Public doesn’t have the same “this-is-the-defining-legislation-of-my-tenure” enthusiasm about the Affordable Care Act as President Obama and his omnipotent band of do-gooders in Congress. In fact, well more than 50% of Americans remain largely critical of the bill and would like to see it delayed, if not fully repealed.
Furthermore, Americans – particularly the young and healthy whose enrollment is critical to the viability of ObamaCare – don’t have a tolerance for failed technology. Generations X, Y and Z are fickle; what sounded like a great idea when they voted quickly loses its appeal when signing up requires effort and a time commitment. They have short attention spans and are easily distracted. Getting them to return to the website after the problems have reportedly been fixed may prove more difficult than predicted, IRS threats not withstanding.
To complicate matters further, many consumers are now realizing that the government’s inability to create and run the on-line exchanges portends an ample threat to its ability to manage something as complex as healthcare. It’s unlikely that consumers will trust an airline to fly a plane if that airline can’t mange to successfully sell a ticket for the flight.
The Affordable Care Act, lovingly known as ObamaCare, is wrong on just about every level. Ultimately, the bill reflects the arrogance of Liberals who perceive themselves as superior, feel compelled to tell Americans what they need, and then proceed to redefine that “need” as a “right”. The entire premise is misguided at best, and frankly, with all due respect to Chief Justice Roberts, unconstitutional.
The vast majority of Americans who already have health insurance are being hit hard with enormous rate increases, skyrocketing deductibles, and huge new taxes and fees as a result of the bill.
The roughly 40% of ObamaCare that is supposed to be funded by cuts in Medicare spending will have a profound impact on doctors and their patients. Access to care will be limited, quality will decrease, and personal choice and privacy will become figments of our past.
Eventually, with enough time and additional taxpayer money, the Obama administration will cobble the insurance exchanges into some semblance of function. Unfortunately, their lack luster debut is nothing more than a harbinger of things to come.
In the words of Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA), "A dysfunctional website is the least of that law's problems."