It’s only for a month, but that’s a month longer than anyone working outside of Capitol Hill will get. Staffers who enrolled in the Washington DC health exchange — or attempted to enroll — will have their current insurance extended until January 31st as the local exchange attempts to work through all of the bugs and errors generated in what is the smallest independent exchange in the country, Audrey Hudson reports for the Colorado Observer:
Members of Congress and their staff will be allowed to keep their health insurance past the end of the year deadline because of persistent problems plaguing the DC Health Link, The Colorado Observer has learned.
A memo issued to House staffers Thursday night said that the Obama administration has been made aware of the “significant problems preventing members and staff in Washington, D.C. and in district offices from enrolling in a healthcare plan.”
The memo from Chief Administrative Officer of the House Dan Strodel said that while they are awaiting a decision to keep the enrollment time open past Dec. 9, health insurance coverage would be extended through Jan. 31.
There are a couple of important points to note about the DC exchange. First, this is not Healthcare.gov, but a separate exchange called DC Health Link. It’s one of a handful of separate entities that supposedly work better than the federal website. In fact, that’s a particular sore spot for ObamaCare supporters, who claim that Republican governors “sabotaged” ObamaCare in part by refusing to create their own state-based exchanges. Oregon, though, still hasn’t enrolled a single person in its own state exchange, and Hawaii has only enrolled a few hundred. Ted Cruz speechwriter (and my friend) Amanda Carpenter spent the last week documenting on Twitter the absurd failures she experienced in attempting to enroll in DC Health Link.
Why absurd? First, like the federal government and the states that opened exchanged, DC had 42 months to ready a web portal. But DC belongs in a class by itself. In late September, the Washington Post reported that DC Health Link was going to work great, but that was hardly a major accomplishment, as I noted at the time:
Amusingly, however, the Post then spends the next nine paragraphs talking about what a success the District of Columbia exchange will be. It’s true that the Post serves that community with local news, but ObamaCare isn’t a local news story, nor was its lead local. Besides, if DC couldn’t launch the nation’s smallest ObamaCare exchange successfully (with an overall population of 632,000 in a city where over 90% of residents already have health insurance), that would be the story.
And now, that is the story. The federal exchange struggles to allow 50,000 concurrent connections for enrollees, but the DC Health Link should only need to allow 70,000 or so (including Congressional staffers who don’t live in DC) total to successfully enroll. It can’t even do that much, as Amanda reported as late as yesterday:
@amandacarpenter Called 2 weeks ago to confirm enrollment & they said I was. Yesterday I called b/c wasn't showing up & they said I wasn't.
— Chris Connolly (@CBConnolly) December 5, 2013
Capitol Hill staffers will get an exemption for a month — and based on reporting from Amanda, they really could use it to get past the incompetent rollout of DC Health Link. The rest of the people in that exchange and in ObamaCare around the country won’t get that option, thanks to the sledgehammer mandates ObamaCare enforced on insurers.