The clock is now ticking down on the United States’ national healthcare plan. Otherwise known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or better yet ‘Obamacare.’ If you’ll remember, we discussed this subject, along with other things to worry about, back in June.
Time’s up, America.
Although the law was actually signed back in 2010, the meaty part of the act is just beginning. As of Oct. 1, each state was supposed to have a variety of healthcare plan options in place, ranging in price, that would cover everyone’s needs, via the Health Care Marketplace. The online application would let you put in your personal information, choose the right plan, then apply for tax credits if you were lower-income and needed financial help.
Why is this important? Because an astonishing percentage of eligible people still have not applied for insurance — 90%. According to the Washington Post, only a little more than 106,000 either applied for insurance or put a plan in their shopping basket in October, out of more than a million eligible. (The Obama administration had hoped for 800,000 signups.) Three-quarters of those applying did it via the state plans; the rest used the federal marketplace. (You can access your own state plans, by the way, by using the link on the Health Care Marketplace site.)
The other issue: as of Jan. 1, 2014, if you cannot prove you have viable insurance, the federal government will penalize you. Not much, admittedly — but you will be penalized.
Although some people are either hoping the issue will get voted out by Congress (unlikely at this point), or just plain choosing to ignore their need for action, not all of the 90% of ‘insurance slackers’ are completely at fault.
One big issue: the website hasn’t always worked. Many people, including this blogger, have tried to enroll, only to be told by the system that either their application wasn’t complete — or it just wasn’t accepted, and they would have to start over again.
In a recent press conference that fielded questions about the national healthcare website, President Obama admitted, “We did fumble the ball on it.”
“I assure you I’ve been asking a lot of questions about that,” he said. “The truth is, number one, that this is very complicated…the website itself is doing a lot of stuff.”
He continues on to identify some of the different choices on the website (identifying possible plans, verifying income and so on), then says it’s “these pieces that made it– [he hesitates slightly] challenging.” He goes on to say that the federal government does a lot of things well — but not “information technology procurement. This is a problem we have systematically across the board.” (This isn’t reassuring news, coming from the Leader of the Free World, when you also consider issues like Homeland Security or the IRS. Unfortunately, it’s not shocking, either.)
Another issue: people with current insurance plans have been told they’ll be canceled – because they do not follow the federal guidelines as of Jan. 1 — or the companies currently insuring them have chosen not to offer those plans anymore. In Colorado, my home state, more than 230,000 people got letters recently informing them of this blessed event. Those people’s main option is, of course, to apply for new insurance through the Health Care Marketplace:
By January 1, 2014.
Through the same Health Care Marketplace site that’s currently having glitches.
(There is one additional option — if it flies. The President did say that he was now recommending that if people want to keep their current plans, they can do so — for another year.)
THE SOLUTION – MAYBE
“This [healthcare plan] is something really important to me,” President Obama said. “It’s important to millions of American that have been waiting for a really long time to try to get healthcare…’cause they don’t have it…What I’m going to do [on the ‘fumbled ball’] is to make sure we get it fixed,” he said firmly.
That promise includes “a website that’s working the way it’s supposed to” by Nov. 30 or Dec. 1. “But there will still be some problems.” He also pledged a streamlined application process, and more opportunities (call centers, staff members) to get help with questions, or understanding the questions.
This fourth-quarter activity (to continue the President’s sports analogies) is helpful, but a little frightening. American have approx. 1 1/2 months to decide on an issue that is not only confusing, but will affect their future, including their budgets and medical choices, in serious ways. Obama himself was puzzled why the White House hadn’t realized how complicated applying for insurance can be. He also wondered why the problems hadn’t been addressed and ironed out much earlier.
We do, too.