The administration is still bravely clinging to its looming do-over Healthcare.gov deadline of November 30. Will the White House salvage a manageable site after two additional months of repairs and testing? According to plugged-in healthcare expert Bob Laszewski -- who, by the way, had his excellent coverage plan canceled due to Obamacare -- industry insiders aren't feeling optimistic:
Health plans are separately enrolling more people on their own sites and through their call centers in great part because of all of the cancellation letters they have recently sent out. Existing customers worried about facing a lapse in coverage are calling in. Many health plans are offering the "early renewal option" to these cancelled customers, which lets people keep their plan but only until December of 2014. I continue to hear that an overwhelming number of existing customers are opting to keep their current plan versus taking an Obamacare compliant plan from the carrier––an interesting outcome given that so many of these plans are said to be "substandard." The most urgent need is for the government to fix the back-end enrollment transactions between the government and the health insurance plans (the 834 problem). It will be impossible to conduct any kind of high volume enrollment through the health portal's front door so long as the data being transmitted to the insurance companies is unreliable. Has the government made progress in fixing the large variety of detailed 834 transaction issues? Yes. But the progress so far is incremental and nowhere near enough to be able to go to high volume processing. The Obama administration finally seems to have a strong group of experienced managers in charge of fixing Healthcare.gov. I don't mean to pile anymore bad news on them then they already have. But I also have to report that the confidence that this can all get fixed by December 1 is not high among the people on the other end of those 834 transactions.
A few important take-aways from this report: (1) Many people really do like their current plans, which the administration disdains as "junk." (2) Another rash of postponed cancellation letters will hit the middle class just about a year from now. Couple those with an inevitable spate of new coverage dumping and expected cost increases, and you've got a recipe for some very nervous Democrats. (3) Progress is "incremental" and "nowhere near" where it needs to be by December 1, at least according to people who desperately need the labyrinthine '834 transaction issues' sorted out by then. The administration is poised to release Obamacare enrollment figures next week, which they've been warning will be "low." But their data will, in fact, be manipulated to appear artificially high:
CMS #ACA enrollment total (firmer # to come next week) will bundle new Medicaid, CHIP + private plans, spox says. (State enrollees pad pix.)— Alexis Simendinger (@ASimendinger) November 5, 2013
So no distinctions will be made between all of these people and the desperately-needed paying enrollees. Transparency. Even with the padded stats, Charles Cooke is right that it's very likely that the number of Americans who learned that they'll lose their existing coverage in October will far exceed the number who've attained insurance through Obamacare over the same time span. Disastrous. In the meantime, signing up for Obamacare remains a kafkaesque, quixotic mission for most, including a reporter from The Atlantic. Her verdict after days of frustration:
Having spent quite some time last week deep in the weeds of Obamacare, whacking my way through the burrs and brush of its extensive questionnaires with a story subject, I am here to tell you two things. First, it is confusing. Second, every little bit of misinformation and confusion matters...In short, for the self-employed, applying for Obamacare subsidies can be as much fun as doing your taxes, because—depending on the state forms—it can actually involve doing part of your taxes. But without any of the user-friendly infrastructure the IRS has developed over decades, and the careful and precise attention to detail of that agency, there's a high risk that people using these systems will spend days wandering fruitlessly in the weeds before figuring out what they are supposed to do to proceed, or if they're eligible for subsidies, in the first place.
Will young invincibles navigate this user-unfriendly maze for the privilege of overpaying for coverage? I'll leave you with another data point from a national survey we've been following this week. Even though it was paid for by a pro-Obamacare group, its results must be alarming for the administration. Among the relatively few uninsured Americans who actually attempted to do so in October, here is the breakdown of why people chose not to sign up for coverage on the exchanges:
Two of the top three concerns are cost-related. That's a problem for the "Affordable" Care Act. Only 21 percent said worries over keeping their doctor dissuaded them from pulling the trigger, but that's a problem that likely won't start dawning on people until next year.