Pitched to the public as a Travelocity-style online marketplace for health insurance, Colorado’s new health exchange won’t allow customers to get online tax credits for at least the first month.
Colorado exchange managers revealed Monday during a board meeting that customers who want tax credits to make health insurance more affordable will have to call for help, rather than navigating the multi-million dollar computer system on their own.
One of the target audiences for the new exchange is “young invincibles,” healthy 20-somethings, many of whom prefer to do research and make purchases for everything from athletic shoes to college tuition online.
Normally, these two stories would go in the same piece, but it’s worth highlighting exactly where and how each of these exchanges is falling short of one of the last remaining promises they could have kept. I imagine D.C. and Colorado are just the first couple of dominoes.
The state had a Colorado Benefits Management System in place notorious for glitches, but just like D.C.’s exchange flacks, Obamacare supporters, and Obama himself, the folks in charge of the exchange kept promising it would launch on time and better than ever.
Even customers working with in-person navigators in Colorado (the ones with 20 hours of training and no background checks) will have to call into a customer service line, where another bureaucrat will walk them through an application on the phone. This sounds like a process perfectly tailored to entice young invincibles into the system, amirite, Millenials?
And, surprise, the various databases and government and private online entities required to work together are not marrying up smoothly:
Solutions has reported for months on sparring behind the scenes between exchange managers, who operate outside of state government, and the state officials who run Medicaid. Each is using a different IT consultant, but their systems must dovetail in order for the exchange to work as promised.
The Washington Post piece assumes the federal data hub itself will work perfectly, even though it’s meant to cull an incredible amount of data and pair it with an incredibly complex set of eligibility requirements. I think even that’s an open question, but here’s the bottom line: This is a giant tech undertaking which will need to serve many localities with different needs, link existing technologies and personnel with a new, giant federal hub, and somehow make sure all of them work together to smoothly to guide consumers who have no idea what to expect in subsidies or services through a brand new web portal for health insurance. They have less than a year to accomplish this. It seems there has been no pilot program, no training, and no beta testing. This thing is ORCA on steroids.
In Colorado, the health care hacks have moved the goalposts to December 15, saying they expect a slow ramp-up to that later date. Here in D.C., some supporters are admirably candid about their newly low expectations, which we should all accept with aplomb.
It’s your family’s health care, your personal information, your time and energy, and huge chunks of your annual income on the line. But hey, don’t have a cow about it:
Don't assume all the Obamacare websites will work smoothly on Oct 1–and don't have a cow if they don't http://t.co/sST1royclf
— Jonathan Cohn (@CitizenCohn) September 20, 2013