People Are Signing Up For The ACA In Droves; One Senator Wants To Extend Open Enrollment

There is no denying the fact that the Affordable Care Act’s (aka Obamacare) federal exchanges have had some hiccups, glitches, and major problems.  On October 1st the exchanges went live and millions of people flocked to the web to sign up.  In fact so many people went to Healthcare.Gov that the servers could not handle the volume of traffic and crashed.

Since the exchanges opened up there have been two very different responses to the website crashes.  Republicans are quick to start conspiracy theories that it is all Obama’s fault.

We are concerned that the administration required contractors to change course late in the implementation process to conceal ObamaCare’s effect on increasing health insurance premiums,” 

The people who live in reality understand that the high volume of traffic was too much for the servers to handle.  People were jumping at the chance to sign up and save money on healthcare.

The opening of state- and federal-run insurance marketplaces Tuesday saw a combination of huge interest and balky technology that led to a series of glitches, delays and even crashes that marred the first hours of the centerpiece of President Obama’s health law.

‘Some of the delays were due to high volume. About 2.8 million people visited the federal website HealthCare.gov since midnight,’ said Marilyn Tavenner, director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.” (USA Today)

Nobody on the right or the left is denying the website has had problems. However every day since the rollout the updates to the equipment have been made. There has also been a decline in the number of people who are going to the site every day.  Combined that all together and you have a smoother, faster, easy to navigate website that is working for everyone.

Senator Shaheen (D-NH) has raised concern that due to the errors in the rollout there may not be enough time for all Americans to sign up before the open enrollment ends.  Shaheen is urging the White House to extend the open enrollment period past March 31, 2014 in order to give Americans more time to obtain coverage. Reports indicate that approximately 65,000 Granite Staters could buy insurance on the New Hampshire marketplace next year.

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama (below) this afternoon, Shaheen suggested extending open enrollment to “provide greater flexibility for the American people seeking to access health insurance.”  Shaheen also asked that the White House to clarify how the “individual responsibility penalty will be administered and enforced” in light of the website’s difficulties.

“The difficulty that people in New Hampshire and in other states that are relying on the federally facilitated marketplaces are experiencing is incredibly frustrating and disappointing,” she added while citing the goal of making health reform a success.

Shaheen also highlighted that the “the healthcare law has already had a significant impact on the lives of millions of Americans” and once fully implemented it will benefit even more Americans. She specifically noted that “seniors are now paying less for their prescription drugs, important preventive care services, such as some cancer screenings and immunizations, are available for free and important work is being done to improve the quality of care we receive.  Americans now have the opportunity to receive tax credits to purchase quality health insurance, and starting in January, 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny health coverage because of a pre-existing condition or drop coverage if someone is sick.”

It should also be noted that those states that chose to run their own exchanges have not had the same problems as the federal exchange.

Alan R. Weil, the executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, an independent nonpartisan group, credited the relative early success of some state exchanges to the fact that they could leap on problems more quickly than the sprawling, complex federal marketplace.

“Individual state operations are more adaptable,” Mr. Weil said. “That does not mean that states get everything right. But they can respond more quickly to solve problems as they arise.” (NY Times)

“The state-run exchange in New York announced Tuesday (seven days after rollout) that it had signed up more than 40,000  people who applied for insurance and were found eligible.” (NY Times Oct 8th)

Americans are jumping to finally get a chance to have affordable health care.   Look at Oregon for example.  Over 50,000 people have signed up for insurance reducing their total uninsured residents by over 10%.  This reduction is in spite of their online exchange not being up yet.  Many of the people signing up are because Oregon also expanded their Medicaid option to cover more than 260,000 more residents.

If state legislators were really interested in helping people acquire healthcare and increase the health of their residents then expanding Medicaid is the best option.  Those legislators who are opposing Medicaid and refused to start their own healthcare exchanges are not going to stop Obamacare, there are only hurting their own constituents.

 

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Text of letter to President Obama from Senator Shaheen (D-NH)

Dear Mr. President:

 The Affordable Care Act has already positively impacted the lives of millions of Americans and once fully implemented, this law has great promise.  However, I am concerned about the problems that people are experiencing with the Affordable Care Act’s website, healthcare.gov. As website glitches persist, we are losing valuable time to educate and enroll people in insurance plans.  I also fear that people that have tried, and failed, to enroll online may become frustrated and not return to the website to try again at a later date.

Given the existing problems with the website, I urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014.  Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll. 

Further, in light of the difficulties individuals may be having with enrolling through healthcare.gov, I ask that you clarify how the individual responsibility penalty will be administered and enforced.  If an individual is unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems with enrollment, they should not be penalized because of lack of coverage.

The difficulty that people in New Hampshire and in other states that are relying on the federally facilitated marketplaces are experiencing is incredibly frustrating and disappointing.  For over three years, we have been waiting for the creation of the health insurance exchanges, which now in their fourth week of existence, are riddled with problems. 

I know that the White House is working diligently to address the website issues, and I know that you share my interest in making this law work successfully.  And I fully understand that the healthcare law has already had a significant impact on the lives of millions of Americans; seniors are now paying less for their prescription drugs, important preventive care services, such as some cancer screenings and immunizations, are available for free and important work is being done to improve the quality of care we receive.  Americans now have the opportunity to receive tax credits to purchase quality health insurance, and starting in January, 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny health coverage because of a pre-existing condition or drop coverage if someone is sick.

Ultimately, however, we must do better. As you continue to fix problems with the website and the enrollment process, it is critical that the Administration be open to modifications that provide greater flexibility for the American people seeking to access health insurance – extending the open enrollment period and clarification on the enforcement and administration of the individual responsibility penalty would be a great start.  

I look forward to continuing to work with you to implement the law.

 

                                                                                    Sincerely,

 

                                                                                    Jeanne Shaheen

                                                                                    US Senator

 

 

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About Matt Murray

Matt Murray is the creator and an author on the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor and progressive politics. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message. Follow him on Twitter @NHLabor_News
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