Yes, it’s a mess. No, I’m not talking about 17-year-old’s bedroom (the mounds of laundry on the floor and 15 empty Gatorade bottles on his desk are fodder for another blog) but, of course, healthcare.gov, the web site that is the gateway to individual insurance for millions of Americans but which, unfortunately, is working about as well as Congress.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a pretty big advocate of healthcare reform and, despite its many flaws, the Affordable Care Act. Which is why I feel like curling up in a fetal ball in the recesses of the teenager’s (scary) closet and not coming out until an entire day goes by without a story on NPR about healthcare.gov.
Unfortunately, I still have to earn a living so the closet is not an option.
So I will face the critics and admit it. Yes, the Obama administration screwed this up in the most humiliating, embarrassing way. Then I will tell them what I tell my kids: Now what?
We can point fingers and whine and moan about how bad things are, or we can focus our energy on fixing the problem. Obviously, since this is the federal government, many heads will roll. But really, people, it is not the end of the ACA or healthcare reform.
Can I point out a few things that aren’t getting much press?
- Twenty-seven states chose to simply walk away from their uninsured, refused to take the money the feds offered to build the exchange, and turned it all over to the feds (seven states are partnering with the feds on the exchanges). Many are also forbidding—under threat of penalties and job loss—state employees from even mentioning the exchanges to residents.
- The exchanges in the 17 states and District of Columbia that chose to build and run their own are working just fine, thank you. Kentucky has already signed up more than 26,000 residents for private insurance and Medicaid; Connecticut 4,000 for private insurance (a third of whom are under 35), California about 25,000 between the private plans and Medicaid.
- Overall, nearly 700,000 Americans have completed applications for health insurance since October 1, about half through the federal exchange.
- More than 20 million people have visited healthcare.gov since it launched October 1 (and no, not all of them were reporters, health economics experts, and politicians). That alone suggests the massive demand out there for health insurance.
- As of October 26, 90 percent of those logging onto healthcare.gov could set up an account; about 30 percent could actually purchase insurance. Sucks, but it’s better than 1 percent.
- There are other options for finding individual insurance. I just logged onto ehealthinsurance.com. Entered my zip code, gender, and smoking status and within seconds up popped about 30 plans for me to compare. I could even find out if I am eligible for a subsidy (you can only get the subsidy if you purchase insurance on the official state or federal exchanges).
Yes, things are rocky. Millions of Americans with individual insurance have received notices that their insurance is being cancelled as of December 31 because it doesn’t meet the essential health benefits requirements. Hopefully the administration will, as it recently promised, have things running smoothly by November 30 (my birthday, BTW).
If not, I promise to return here with more mea culpas.
And, let me admit, this is not the only problem with the ACA. In my next blog, I will highlight some others. Then I plan to head for that closet.