Obamacare's E-commerce Blunder

Posted: Feb 10, 2014 2:27 PM
Obamacare's E-commerce Blunder

A drive around the suburbs of Chicago where the author makes his home is quite revealing when looking at retail shopping space. Gone is the regional grocery store chain Dominick’s, a brand of the national grocery store group Safeway, having recently closed 72 stores just prior to year end 2013. The once great Borders Books & Music with its coffee shop and eight rows of periodicals is barren. Many other medium to big box sites sit empty. To borrow lyrics from the left’s cultural icon Bruce Springsteen “Main Street’s white washed windows and vacant stores. Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come ‘round here no more”

And they won’t.

Available data for this recent past holiday shopping season shows some interesting numbers with regard to e-commerce and consumer shopping behavior. According to comScor, a publically traded consumer insights analytic firm, shoppers this holiday season spent over $42 billion on-line, up 10% from the year before. On Cyber-Monday alone, the day that e-commerce deals proliferate, over $1.7 billion was spent. For virtually any occasion consumers have been learning that they can sit in their underwear, sip hot chocolate, and buy the same to-be-returned gift without engaging in the real life festive version of Call of Duty: Ghosts.

So wasn’t the Obama administration trendy-smart in pinning their hopes on a successful Obamacare rollout to a state of the art website? Let’s disregard for a moment that when the website launched it resembled the old black and white crash footage of man’s early foray into flight. We will become economists and “assume” the website worked. Wouldn’t that have been perfect for shoppers, especially young shoppers who are so tech-savvy?

President Obama always said he wanted healthcare.gov to work like a travel site, Kayk.com to be exact. What he didn't realize is many people go to travel sites just to browse and look at options. When they find the option that is most cost effective and fits their needs they may well purchase it, shop for other comparable packages or wait for the price to drop. Ultimately, they may just completely change their mind and not buy it at all. The flaws with Obamacare are that the price won't go down and there are no frequent flyer miles nor reward points nor discount promotional codes. There is no deal!

Consider a recent poll from the Kaiser Foundation shows 47 percent of the uninsured with unfavorable views of the law while 24 percent said they liked it. Internet shopping may be convenient, but that doesn’t translate into ill-reasoned choices being made en-masse as is necessary to meet Obamacare’s enrollment goals.

The Heritage Foundation states the monthly premium for a healthy 27 year old in the State of Illinois (our community organizer’s home-state) is roughly $3,000 per year. Let’s then assume a $5,000 deductible. That’s $8,000 per year before real benefits kick in. US Census data tell us the median annual income for that 27 year old is approximately $27,000. That’s 30% of their already modest wage going toward health care. Yes, there are subsidies but they don’t last forever. Some informed young people know that pre-existing conditions are now covered so they conclude they can just get covered whenever they get sick. Some better informed young people know, however, that they might have to wait until the start of the next calendar year to get that coverage so best to get sick late-November.

Given the commitment issues of youth, the easiest thing to do with this expensive and complex mess is to just walk away. And that is exactly what they are doing. Through December 28 of 2013 only 24% of the enrollees in Obamacare are between the ages of 18-34. The target going in for that demographic was 38%.

If the pop-up blocker in your web browser malfunctions and you get notified that you have a chance for the vacation package of a lifetime, you might be inclined to “click here” if you’re confident in your anti-virus software. Imagine your chagrin if you are directed to Kayak’s new affiliate site “Row-Boat” where you learn that the vacation package you get is a six week trip to North Korea with Dennis Rodman and curbside seats for a military parade; all for only $8,000. Would you “purchase”? Would you “purchase” Obamacare instead?

Want to get away?