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December 2 2014

ObamaCare Off to a Snooze-worthy Start

Patrice J. Lee

Enrollment in ObamaCare exchange plans opened about two weeks ago and in terms of glitches, things are much better.  

Gone are the error messages, broken pages, and hours of frustration that plagued healthcare.gov when ObamaCare opened for business last year. However, despite the lack of problems, Americans are slow to enroll and even slower to renew.

About 220,000 new people have signed up for coverage in the website’s first week of open enrollment and another 240,000 people renewed their plans. That’s pretty good when compared with last year’s launch in which only about 100,000 people were able to enroll in the entire month. But is that good enough? Not likely.

We all remember October 1, 2013 when after weeks of media blitzes, healthcare.gov launched and promptly crashed and burned. For days, then weeks, then months, the broken website failed to allow people to view plans and apply online. It exposed the Administration’s ineptitude in coordinating the government’s latest major expansion of power by getting into the healthcare business.

By the end of April or mid-May (after President Obama arbitrarily and conveniently extended open enrollment), the Administration claimed 8 million people had signed up. As we learned recently, the final enrollment numbers are two million shorter because customers failed to pay their premiums, failed to verify immigration status, or simply dropped their plans because it wasn’t worth it.

Now, the Administration has to do it all over again. They need the 6.7 million current enrollees to renew their plans and they’re looking for another 3.2 million new customers. Health and Human Services (HHS) downgraded their estimates for 2015 to 9.9 million –below the 12-million target the Congressional Budget Office projected.

If enrollments and renewals continue to hobble along at this pace, they will definitely fall short.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

… the latest numbers also signal steep challenges ahead as the government tries to meet enrollment goals. Federal officials said Wednesday they are continuing to encourage millions of people to come back to the site to review their coverage and make any changes—while ensuring the site’s technical side can handle the heavy traffic.

The deadline for signing up for coverage is Feb. 15, but current policyholders have only until Dec. 15 to make changes to their coverage for the new year.

If those policyholders don’t come back to HealthCare.gov to see the latest offerings, the government automatically will renew their existing plans.

Officials are banking on more people coming back to the site closer to the deadline for making changes to coverage, raising the prospect of a crush of users on the site in the next 2½ weeks. Insurers will also have to sift through information they get from the site to make changes to people’s coverage in the days between Dec. 16 and New Year’s Day.

At the same time it is juggling people renewing coverage, the Obama administration is aiming to increase the number of people who gain insurance through the health exchanges across the country.

As we reported, the Administration is partnering with mall chains including Westfield Shopping Centers, pharmacies, and websites like The Knot, The Nest and The Bump to target young people and engaged couples.

The problem is Americans still don’t like or want ObamaCare. As open enrollment kicked off, only 37 percent of Americans approved of the President’s signature law, according to Gallup. ObamaCare has failed in many ways – and not just as a website for people to shop for healthcare coverage. It’s failed to deliver lower costs for young people, it’s failed to allow millions of Americans to keep their plans. It’s failed to allow them to keep their doctors or preferred healthcare providers. It’s failed to be a stimulus to the economy and it’s failed to be a job stimulator. It’s not surprising that ObamaCare has left a bad taste in our mouths.

Also note that the Administration will automatically renew plans if customers neglect to make changes to plans. In the private sector, employers and insurance companies require that we make our election in writing even if it’s to confirm no changes.

The Administration realizes though that by keeping the same plans, current customers may be walloped with higher costs as the insurance market adjusts to the current patient pool that is older and sicker than before. They want plan holders to shop around for a better deal to keep them from defecting entirely.

As more Americans realize what they’re getting with ObamaCare and at what price, the more they’re less embracing of it.

 



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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