Despite initial problems, Obamacare is still a step forward


It’s hard to tell which has done more to hurt the initial phase of the Affordable Care Act: continued GOP opposition or the inept rollout of the new law. To many citizens, the rollout problems — which left millions unable to even log in to the system — simply confirm GOP propaganda that Obamacare won’t work.

That’s wrong. Despite those initial problems, the Affordable Care Act is still a big step forward in reforming the health care system, and we believe it will prove itself in the long run. It ensures that most of those now without health care insurance will get it. It removes onerous insurance requirements such as those involving pre-existing conditions. And it will even, contrary to some of the hysteria, help small businesses provide health insurance for their employees.

The Obama administration had an opportunity with the rollout that started Oct. 1 to at least ease the concerns of critics and mitigate the propaganda. Instead, the website proved not ready for prime time. That’s a lost opportunity the Obama administration won’t get back.

A recent New York Times article on the rollout reported that “For the past 12 days, a system costing more than $400 million and billed as a one-stop click-and-go hub for citizens seeking health insurance has thwarted the efforts of millions to simply log in. The growing national outcry has deeply embarrassed the White House, which has refused to say how many people have enrolled through the federal exchange.”

In Wisconsin, the initial failure of the website (HealthCare.gov) means that some of the 92,000 people losing their state BadgerCare Plus health insurance on Jan. 1 may find themselves in difficulty, the Journal Sentinel’s Patrick Marley reported last Sunday.

Under a plan by Gov. Scott Walker, those 92,000 people will lose their state BadgerCare Plus coverage on Jan. 1 and be pushed on to the new federal health insurance exchange. The exchange is aimed at giving people a way to find affordable insurance through the private sector. Subsidies are available for people who meet income guidelines. The problem is they are supposed to use the federal government’s website to sign up, and that hasn’t worked. While the feds say they’re working to fix the problems, the fear is that some of those losing BadgerCare coverage won’t line up new insurance in time.

That would be a real shame, because the health exchanges are the only way right now that some of those people will be able to afford insurance.

Jon Peacock, research director for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said state legislators should change the law so they can delay by a couple of months when the 92,000 people are moved from BadgerCare to private plans. That would immediately lower the number of people trying to sign up for insurance on the exchange and give state officials more time to ensure people are properly transitioned from BadgerCare to the private plans.

“The fundamental problem that was foreseeable from the beginning is that there would be too many people all trying to use the marketplace at the same time,” Peacock told Marley.

Peacock is right about that much: The problem was foreseeable. This was not a surprise to anyone, and the Obama administration had plenty of time to work on it. Real people are being hurt, and Peacock’s proposal to delay moving people from BadgerCare makes sense to us.

According to the Times article: “Confidential progress reports from the Health and Human Services Department show that senior officials repeatedly expressed doubts that the computer systems for the federal exchange would be ready on time, blaming delayed regulations, a lack of resources and other factors.”

And there’s this: “One person familiar with the system’s development said that the project was now roughly 70% of the way toward operating properly, but that predictions varied on when the remaining 30% would be done. ‘I’ve heard as little as two weeks or as much as a couple of months,’ that person said. Others warned that the fixes themselves were creating new problems, and said that the full extent of the problems might not be known because so many consumers had been stymied at the first step in the application process.”

— From the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

 

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