Top Obamacare Administrator: "Let's Just Make Sure It's Not a Third-World Experience"

Posted: Mar 23, 2013 11:00 AM

Well, this inspires confidence:

With time-running out before the major provisions of President Obama’s health care law are set to be implemented, the official tasked with making sure the law’s key insurance exchanges are up and running is already lowering expectations. “The time for debating about the size of text on the screen or the color or is it a world-class user experience, that’s what we used to talk about two years ago,” Henry Chao, an official at the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services who is overseeing the technology of the exchanges said at a recent conference. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience.” Chao also described himself as “nervous.”

...As originally pitched, the exchanges were to be easy to use — like Expedia or Orbitz for health insurance — allowing users to fill out basic information, have the government database verify their eligibility, and then enable them to choose among competing plans. But achieving this has been proving to be a huge hurdle. The exchanges are supposed to be available for open enrollment by Oct. 1 and benefits are supposed to kick in on January 1. Also adding to the workload — 26 states have chosen to let the federal government set up their exchanges. The CQ article also quotes Gary Cohen, director of the federal Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, as conceding that the exchanges may not be fully functional in all 50 states in time.  

Four years and billions upon billions of dollars later, Obamacare might well face a 'failure to launch' meltdown.  That wouldn't just be an embarrassment, it would create a truly frightening healthcare crisis for the millions of Americans who will already be counting on a functional system. All of this has some of the law's political champions uneasily grinding their teeth.  President Obama was cunning enough to delay the stickiest elements of his signature law until after he would face voters for the final time, but some of his allies won't have that same luxury:

President Obama’s health care law—a killer issue in 2010 but an afterthought among voters in 2012—will face another round of attacks in 2014 as its thorniest parts go into effect, potentially supplying Republicans fresh ammunition in their war against "Obamacare" and creating renewed problems for a plethora of vulnerable Democrats. Neither party knows for sure how smoothly the law will be implemented or if Americans will ultimately support it. But it’s clear that seismic change is coming in health care, and that any disruption to the system could alienate voters who today are mostly ambivalent toward the law. Businesses are starting to scramble to meet the law’s requirement that they offer health insurance by the start of next year, which is also when new taxes and regulations will kick in that critics say will result in “rate shock” for young consumers. State and federal officials may not have insurance-enrollment programs fully operational in time, sowing red tape and confusion as people who have never bought insurance try to navigate flawed and complicated systems. Insurers are already warning that premiums are set to spike.

Indeed they are.  Why, here's another example from just yesterday:

Health insurers are privately warning brokers that premiums for many individuals and small businesses could increase sharply next year because of the health-care overhaul law, with the nation's biggest firm projecting that rates could more than double for some consumers buying their own plans. The projections, made in sessions with brokers and agents, provide some of the most concrete evidence yet of how much insurance companies might increase prices when major provisions of the law kick in next year—a subject of rigorous debate...In a private presentation to brokers late last month, UnitedHealth Group Inc., UNH -1.13% the nation's largest carrier, said premiums for some consumers buying their own plans could go up as much as 116%, and small-business rates as much as 25% to 50%. The company said the estimates were driven in part by growing medical costs not directly tied to the law. It also cited the law's requirements that health status not affect rates and that plans include certain minimum benefits and limits to out-of-pocket charges, among other things.

The "Affordable" Care Act at work, folks.  It seems Kathleen "Zero Tolerance" Sebelius may be rather busy over the next few years.  So many companies to punish, so little time.  Happy anniversary, America.

UPDATE - 3.2 million American jobs are threatened by Obamacare, according to a new survey.  Weren't we told that it would create 4 million jobs?  Sure, but that was before a former Obama adviser conceded that the law "is not a jobs program."

UPDATE II - Via American Action Network:

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