President Obama’s big push for a unified platform for the purpose of selling easy and feasible options for the millions who are uninsured has fallen flat, leaving many Americans frustrated. The Affordable Care Act faced yet another bump in its long journey to provide insurance coverage with many complaining about the insurance exchange website HealthCare.gov — the website setup as a one stop shop for insurance registrations.
First, there was the lack of support from the Republican House, due to which 30 states were void from the roll-out. The states that did open for sign-ups faced snafus that were downright excruciating for some.
“I have aggressively supported the ACA initiative. However, I’m greatly disappointed in this roll out. I was notified by BCBS NC that my current individual health plan will be cancelled on January 1 and I must enroll in the Federal Exchange. So what happened to if you have coverage, you can keep it. Next after 10 frustrating days, I get thru the ‘process’ on Healthcare.gov only to receive an eligibility letter that states, I will not have coverage in 2014 and I will not be penalized with additional taxes due to my circumstances. So, I go from having a plan that costs $316 per month with 100% well health coverage and lab coverage, $25 copay for 4 doctor visits per year, Rx co pay at $10, and a $5,000 deductible to an offer from the exchange of NO COVERAGE and BCBS NC has nothing to offer me in 2014 EXCEPT a plan for $630 with NO RX, a $45 copay, and a $6,500 deductible . Oh, the selling point — I’ll have maternity coverage in this plan that costs more than twice my current plan with less benefits. At 62 years of age, I do not need maternity!!!! This is a large project and should be rolled out in phases. Anyone with a health insurance policy of any type should be able to keep their policy until this mess is fixed!!!! Who is listening????”
So who is to blame for the technical problems and mis-matches? According to this New York Times article, the blame largely falls on the administration and the state-level committees who failed to properly implement the system. From the technology side, there were many companies involved — as contractors and sub-contractors. The biggest contractor, CGI Federal, was awarded its $94 million contract in December 2011. But it seems the administration was so slow in issuing specifications that CGI Federal did not start writing software code until this spring!
Even as late as September, government officials were still changing features of HealthCare.gov, and debating whether consumers should be required to register and create password-protected accounts before they could shop for health plans. The end result of which, only a small percentage of the 14.6 million people who have visited the federal exchange since launch have so far managed to enroll in insurance plans, according to executives of major insurance companies who receive enrollment files from the government. And even some of those enrollments are marred by mistakes. The NY Times article cites insurance executives who said the government had sent some enrollment files to the wrong insurer, confusing companies that have similar names but are in different states.
Playing damage control, the contractors associated with building the exchange are now publicly distancing themselves from the troubled parts of the federally run project. Senior executives at IT major Oracle, a subcontractor who provides identity management software used in the registration process that has frustrated so many users, defended the company’s work. “Our software is running properly,” said Deborah Hellinger, Oracle’s vice president for corporate communications.
But despite the challenges, the health insurance exchange saw a huge response the day it launched, proving Americans are willing to give this insurance system a chance. Insurance companies reported much higher traffic on their websites and many more callers to their phone lines than predicted. Here’s hoping Obama’s administration can fix the issues before the anger escalates.