I know it’s rough, but try to contain your shock, everyone: The Obama administration is woefully behind on yet another aspect of the Patient “Protection” and “Affordable” Care Act that they so strenuously assured us would be an integral and simplifying part of the law. Crazy, right?
The Obama administration promised that they were going to single-handedly transform the health insurance market by creating online marketplaces, called “exchanges,” through which consumers would be able to very easily shop around for and compare different competitively priced insurance plans, as well as calculate the federal subsidies for which they might qualify — much like shopping for flights on Travelocity or Expedia, they said.
The administration had been hoping that most states would at least partially undertake the endeavor of creating said exchanges through their own auspices, but most unfortunately for them, that didn’t pan out, as most states declined to do so independently and the Obama administration is now stuck doing all or part of the exchanges in 35 states. Would-be consumers are supposed to be able to begin signing up for ObamaCare via these new and complex computer systems on October 1st, 2013, but the Associated Press reports that the administration has “yet to demonstrate the technology platform that will help consumers get financial help with their premiums and pick a plan”:
Struggling with a deadline crunch, some states are delaying online tools that could make it easier for consumers to find the right plan when the markets go live on Oct. 1.
Ahead of open enrollment for millions of uninsured Americans, the feds and the states are investing in massive call centers.
“The description that this was going to be like Travelocity was a very simplistic way of looking at it,” said Christine Ferguson, director of the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange. “I never bought into it.”
“The bottom line is that with tight timelines … states have had to scale back their initial ambitions for Day 1,” said Paul Hencoski, leader of KPMG’s government health practice, which is advising nearly 20 states. “A lot of the more sophisticated functionalities that might have been offered through the Web are being deferred to later phases.”
When the markets first open, Hencoski said, “there will be a significant amount of manual processing of things that will later be automated.” Translation: emails, phone calls, faxes.
It’s never been a secret that creating all of these online exchanges from scratch was going to be a bureaucratic feat of herculean proportions — back in March, one ObamaCare official noted that they were well past that wishful point of trying to engineer a world-class consumer-friendly experience and were instead just trying to “make sure it’s not a third-world experience” — but the administration is so far behind on getting these things fully operational that getting millions of people signed up on what will probably still be glitchy, untested, and work-in-progress systems is definitely going to turn into a very messy and manual endeavor. They really didn’t plan this well, did they?