Checking In on the Affordable Care Act
- More than 20 million unique individuals have visited the federal website, healthcare.gov.
- Almost half a million Americans have applied for health insurance under the federal exchanges.
- Some state-based exchanges have been even more successful:
- In New York, 150,000 people have signed up for new coverage.
- In Washington State, 35,000 have enrolled and an additional 56,000 will be enrolled pending payment of their first premium, due in December.
- In Oregon, the number of uninsured was reduced by 10% in just two weeks.
- And in Kentucky, the uninsured are signing up for new coverage at a rate of a thousand per day.
Despite these successes, news coverage of the ACA has focused on one major problem: the technical performance of the website, where Americans in many states can purchase health insurance from federally-run exchanges. The problems with the site are unquestionably real, and worthy of some focus. After all, the website is one important way for Americans to obtain health insurance. But the problems with the website are no reason to despair. Why not?
1) The website is being improved.
The Administration knows that there are problems with the site. On Monday, the President acknowledged the issues, claiming that “no one is angrier” with the website’s flaws than he is. The Department of Health and Human Services is working hard to make significant improvements to the site. On Tuesday, the Administration tapped Jeffrey Zients, formerly Acting OMB Director and Chief Performance Officer of the United States, to supervise improvements to the online enrollment process. Healthcare.gov will hopefully be on track soon!
2) There are other ways to get the new insurance plans.
Healtchare.gov is one way to enroll in the new insurance plans available under the ACA. But until all of the gliches are improved, there are other ways to enroll.
- Apply with a paper application
- Apply by phone, by calling 1-800-318-2596
- Apply with the assistance of a Navigator, Certified Application Counselor, or certain government agency officers. Learn about the options in your area here.
3) The website is not the Affordable Care Act.
While we wait for the website to improve, it’s important to remember that the Affordable Care Act is not just a website! It’s a landmark piece of legislation that fundamentally reforms the way healthcare services are delivered. The ACA has dozens of component pieces designed to increase Americans’ ability to access quality and affordable health insurance. The website is not the product here: health insurance is the product, and it’s a good product.
4) The law is working!
One key group of Americans is enrolling: those covered by the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. While not all states have expanded Medicaid to cover millions of poor Americans, 25 states plus D.C. have done so including Ohio, as of Monday. Additionally, three million young Americans are able to stay on their parents’ plans until 26; those with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied insurance; preventative care funding has increased; subsidies for many Americans to purchase health insurance are now available; all insurance plans must now be more cost-effective and affordable; and, dozens of other provisions are kicking in. While the website is having serious issues, the Affordable Care Act is working.
It is no doubt true that problems with healthcare.gov are frustrating for those of us who care about fulfilling our obligation to provide healthcare to our communities. Let’s get it fixed soon. But let’s also remember that the problems with the website are masking the real feat of the ACA: providing quality and affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.