- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- We are not amused: Queen’s protection officers warned to keep ‘sticky fingers’ off the royal cashews
- Unleash the crossbows: Gov. Scott Walker creates new hunting season
- Bubonic plague kills 20 in Madagascar
- G-20 diplomats fell for hacker attack promising nude photos of former French first lady Carla Bruni
- Minnesota guardsman charged with stealing private soldier data for fake IDs
- Florida appeals court rules universities can’t regulate guns
- Vladimir Putin defends Russian conservative values
Buzz about Obamacare exposes bugs in the system
The debut of Obamacare was so successful Tuesday that the program didn’t work very well.
That, in a nutshell, was the split verdict reported by state and federal officials, who said tremendous interest in the state-based health exchange markets was so strong that it overloaded the websites designed to help uninsured Americans find coverage.
“If this doesn’t show the hunger the American people have to sign up for health care, I don’t know what does,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said at a pep rally to tout the opening of the exchanges, which are a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act.
Top Republicans, though, said the first-day glitches prove Obamacare is not ready and that Democrats should have heeded GOP calls for a delay.
“Today, across the country, Americans are attempting to purchase health insurance on Obamacare exchanges and are being met with crashing websites, missing price information, confusing forms and, in some cases, exchanges that had to delay their start date because they aren’t ready yet,” said Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “These ‘glitches,’ which the president is trying to brush off, reveal how totally unprepared the government is for this launch even with 3½ years to prepare.”
The law’s supporters — including President Obama in remarks in the Rose Garden — said opening-day verdicts are premature and that heavy interest signals rosier days ahead for the exchanges because many consumers will sign up weeks later and should find a full suite of services.
Federal website HealthCare.gov attracted 2.8 million visitors by midafternoon, officials said. That appeared to be more users than the website could handle, prompting error messages that pleaded for patience because there were “a lot of visitors on our site now.”
“That gives you a sense of how important this is to millions of Americans around the country, and that’s a good thing,” Mr. Obama said.
The online exchanges allow people without employer-based coverage to shop for private health care plans, often with the help of income-based government subsidies. Open enrollment lasts until the end of March, although consumers must sign up by Dec. 15 to have coverage at the start of January, when the individual mandate requiring all Americans to have insurance takes effect.
Three years after the law’s passage, the exchanges are considered one of two linchpins of the law — the other is the expansion of Medicaid in states that choose to do so — that could determine whether Mr. Obama’s signature vision is a success or failure.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services declined to release enrollment figures from its federally run exchanges, saying it would release them regularly at points in the future, although several states were able to release detailed data.
D.C. Health Link reported 3,356 accounts on the capital city’s exchange. Among them, 398 completed applications and four consumers completed enrollment, including payment.
But some state-run exchanges experienced problems with their security-question functions, while others were overwhelmed. The New York State exchange reported 2 million site visits in its first two hours of operation and asked visitors who were unable to log in to come back later.
Opening the portals
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have set up their own online portals with unique names such as Cover Oregon, Kynect in Kentucky and the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange in Nevada. The rest of the states are relying entirely or in part on the federal government to run their exchanges for them.
The websites should allow consumers to compare the plans, which range from low-cost “bronze” insurance with minimal coverage to high-cost “platinum” programs.
Jon M. Hager, executive director of Nevada’s market, said roughly one-fourth of residents in his state were uninsured for a laundry list of reasons, but that obstacles to affordable coverage would fall away through Obamacare.
He said a Spanish-language version of the Nevada exchange will not be ready until November — officials are building it from the ground up to avoid problems from translating the English version — and warned that there will be “hiccups, errors and other bugs that occur.”
Members of his staff checked in on the state’s online portal after reporters on a conference call said they could not log on at the hour the site was supposed to go live. The delay lasted 17 minutes.
“I apologize for that,” Mr. Hager said.
By midafternoon, the Nevada exchange counted more than 1,000 accounts on the site.
The Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that all customers can look up information and start the enrollment process through the federal website — or CuidadoDeSalud.gov for Spanish-speaking consumers — no matter where they live.
A D.C. resident, for example, would be directed to the D.C. Health Link Web page, but a resident across the Potomac River in Virginia would remain on the federal site because the Obama administration is responsible for the commonwealth’s exchange.
In the midst of Tuesday’s hiccups, advocates for the law said it should be considered a soft opening with increased interest over time. They touted early interest on the federal exchanges as “pent-up demand” and a backhand endorsement of Obamacare, despite the error messages.
“To me that says, ‘Whoa, everyone’s checking this out,’” said Will Wilson. The 59-year-old Chicago resident said he has AIDS but could not, until Obamacare began, obtain coverage related to any other health issues.
The health care law prevents insurers from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions, a key selling point of the law that also has raised questions about whether younger, healthy people are effectively subsidizing the care of older, sicker patients in the individual market.
Republicans tried to delay key portions of Obamacare last week and into Monday night, but the Senate balked at any negotiations over the president’s signature law. The resulting government shutdown did not affect the administration’s rollout of the exchanges.
Mila Kofman, executive director of the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, said the fervor about a mile down the road on Capitol Hill was irrelevant to her team’s efforts.
“For us,” she said, “it’s never been political.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
- In rare bipartisan move, Congress tackles long-standing Medicare issue
- White House improvises again on patchy Obamacare rollout
- Key Obamacare official: Last two months much harder than anyone hoped
- HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calls for review of Obamacare rollout woes
- More than a quarter million sign up for Obamacare in November
Latest Blog Entries
- Calif.: Give 'gift of health' by pledging cash for the uninsured
- Tensions hit boiling point over Obamacare enrollment figures, error rates
- Young, uninsured adults vital to Obamacare are not keen on enrolling: New Harvard poll
- Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox will promote Obamacare at Mall of America
- HealthCare.gov employs a new look once again
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- House votes for bargain to end budget drama
- Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro 'marriage'
- Spike in battlefield deaths linked to restrictive rules of engagement
- Jane Fonda Foundation fails to make single contribution in 5 years: report
- Atheists smug as Hindus join Satanists to demand display at Oklahoma Statehouse
- U.S. debt jumps a record $328 billion tops $17 trillion for first time
- Biden guarantees victory on immigration reform
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Covering the world of soccer, including the World Cup, Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the English Premier League and other interesting sporting events.
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow