USA Today: Obamacare's Website Still Broken for Many Consumers

Posted: Feb 14, 2014 1:22 PM
USA Today: Obamacare's Website Still Broken for Many Consumers

More than two months after the White House declared "fixed" -- and four months after it was rolled out in spite of failed tests -- the site is still causing "vexing" problems for an untold number of potential consumers, according to USA Today. Health insurance expert Bob Laszewski listed the ways in which the website remains under construction or buggy, but for some customers, basic functions aren't yet operating properly:

Many consumers who have waited months to resolve insurance application issues on are finally getting help, but some are still stuck in limbo without Medicaid or insurance coverage, and many of the site's most vexing problems remain, according to insurers, brokers and state Medicaid officials. Applications that take days, clueless customer service representatives and error-ridden or orphan files persist...Insurers report the files they get about enrollments still sometimes can't be matched with clients, creating "orphan" records. And the National Association of State Medicaid Directors' Matt Salo says Medicaid-eligible people who have been bounced back and forth from to states are now being told just to enroll through their states. That's because the process of transferring files to states is still fraught with problems on both sides. Robert Zirkelbach of trade group America's Health Insurance Plans says insurers are trying to implement the new policies as seamlessly as possible but are still stymied by glitches. "There are still some technical challenges that need to be addressed, including processes are being done manually that need to be automated," Zirkelbach says.

That lack of automation is due to elements of the back-end still being built, a slap-dash process that is exacerbating the site's data security vulnerability problem. It also explains why the administration says it doesn't have a solid grasp on the non-payment rate among "enrollees" and can't say how many of the sign-ups have come from previously-insured consumers. As I noted in an update to a post yesterday, the New York Times spoke with a number of well-placed insurance industry sources who estimate that between 20 and 30 percent of "enrollees" have failed to pay their first month's premium (and are therefore uninsured). My back-of-the-envelope calculations, based on the White House's supposedly official statistics:

And as we've also mentioned this week, payment rates in certain states are even less robust -- some as low as 50 percent. I'm sure "National Youth Enrollment Day" will fix everything, especially with the website down for maintenance. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has reported on the plight of many low- and middle-income Americans who face severely pared back access to care, and higher premiums under Obamacare. Another Journal piece features businesses who see "little relief" in the White House's employer mandate delay double-down:

Health-benefits experts said the change will help small and midsize companies by giving them more time to research coverage options and costs. But several small businesses said Tuesday that the extra time offered only minimal relief. "All it's doing is delaying the ultimate for another 12 months," said Tim Copeland, co-owner of Copeland Furniture Inc., a manufacturer in Bradford, Vt., with 95 employees...[A] Seneca Castle, N.Y., proprietor of a produce and grain farm last year rearranged her employees' schedules and workloads to keep the farm's full-time staff below 50 workers. Her goal was to avoid having to start providing insurance or pay a penalty in 2015 under the Affordable Care Act.

So, for the umpteenth time, Obama is unquestionably having a negative impact on US employers' hiring and benefits decisions. And that's before you factor in the CBO's estimate that the new law will drive the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers out of the workforce over the next five years. What do Democrats have to say about all of this? One candidate vying to win a special election in Florida thinks it's pretty amazing:

Sink, however, says the CBO report is actually good news that points to the "exciting prospect" that Americans will have more choice and greater freedom in their lives.

"Freedom" to work less, quit their jobs, or retire early -- all at other taxpayers' expense, and at the expense of US productivity. How very exciting. Because what this economy really needs is fewer people working full time. Here's an ad the NRCC is running against this woman:

I'll leave you with the new Fox News poll, in which majorities of Americans say the wish Obamacare had never passed, view it as a bad thing for the country, and believe it's more about controlling people's lives than providing healthcare.

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