Imagine your family’s next trip to the dentist. You, your spouse and your children are covered by an insurance plan purchased through one of the new health exchanges opening next month. It was sold to you as a no-deductible plan, so it’s quite an unpleasant surprise when the dentist asks you to pay.
Sound unlikely? If only. That kind of scenario is not that far-fetched, given the persistent glitches that have surfaced as the Oct. 1 launch of Obamacare approaches.
Health insurance officials are worried -- and rightly so. They’ve seen the errors that have cropped up on a new government website designed to show the public what plans are available for purchase.
“An official from Florida Blue, a large insurer, was concerned that a health policy it plans to sell on the state's exchange would mislead customers,” Reuters recently reported. “The preview website showed no charge at all for some medical services, rather than no charge after a deductible is met.”
Or take Aetna. Policies that they once intended to sell in Ohio were withdrawn, but were still showing up on the government website. Or the glitch that led to the example cited above: Delta Dental of Wyoming noticed that its plan was showing zero deductible in policies that cover parents and children. Oops.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the government agency in charge of signing agreements with insurers this month to sell specific policies on the exchanges, insists it will iron out the problems and open the enrollment period on time.
Perhaps it will. But the president’s signature health law faces more than just technical problems.
For one thing, government officials have missed numerous deadlines to get a federal health exchange up and running. One Government Accountability Office report noted that “critical” activities to create the exchange had not been completed, and that the missed deadlines “suggest a potential for challenges going forward.”
Nice understatement there. A memo from the Congressional Research Service, which indicates that no fewer than 41 out of 82 Obamacare-related deadlines have been missed, indicates this “potential” is even greater than the GAO has stated.
Other unexpected problems have forced the administration to delay key parts of the law. Last April, for example, officials announced that workers won’t be able to choose plans next year from different health insurers in the small business exchanges. TIME’s Joe Klein, a long-time administration supporter, called this “a really bad sign” of “Obamacare incompetence.”